Home sale pays for leisure park: Failed Battersea developer raises cash to complete latest project

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The Independent Online
JOHN BROOME, the leisure entrepreneur behind Alton Towers and the uncompleted redevelopment of Battersea Power Station, has sold his pounds 3m home in Cheshire to raise money to complete his latest project, the pounds 22m country sports estate, Carden Park.

The house, Stretton Hall, stands on the edge of the Carden Park estate and was sold for a sum, described by local estate agents as just 'shy' of pounds 3m, to Michael Taylor, who sold his plastics company, Taco Holdings, to Britton Group for pounds 32m earlier this year.

The sale has enabled Mr Broome to pay the final instalment of the pounds 22m cost of developing Carden Park, which he says will be officially opened on 1 November. 'Mr Broome was planning to sell the house in the spring and build a new house in the grounds (of Carden),' a spokesman said. 'By completing the deal at this time it has freed the money up to finish the project.'

Mr Broome's aides have dismissed rumours that Carden Park was facing difficulties and had been laying off staff as a result of the failure of Manchester to win its bid to host the 2000 Olympics. Mr Broome was on the Manchester 2000 committee, and the country house estate - which is 50 miles from Manchester - had been chosen as the location of seven Olympic sporting events.

'I don't think that was the raison d'etre for Carden,' said the spokesman. 'After all the Olympics would have been seven years away.'

Mr Broome, who sold Alton towers to Pearson three years ago for pounds 60m, has admitted losing around pounds 85m in the project to redevelop Battersea Power Station. The project, originally estimated at pounds 34m and supposed to open in May 1990, was hampered by the poor foundations of the massive brick building. The site has since been sold to the Wong brothers from Hong Kong.

The Carden Park estate covers 1,200 acres, a few miles east of Chester. Mr Broome has aimed it at the rich and the corporate hospitality market, with 25 sporting events on offer, including croquet, shooting and golf, on an 18-hole golf course and a 9-hole practice course.

Mr Broome has described Carden Park as 'the most exciting project I have ever undertaken'. He added: 'There is a huge demand for a sports resort like Carden, so not surprisingly I am looking forward to proving the gloom and doom merchants wrong again.'

His confidence on Carden is reminiscent of the confidence he once exuded in the Battersea project. That project, ceremonially renamed by Margaret Thatcher when she was prime minister, was said to be set to become 'the jewel in London's pleasure industry crown'.

Mr Broome said about the project's planned opening in May 1990 that if people arrived five minutes late they would miss it. Battersea is still a long way from opening.

(Photograph omitted)