London theme park axed

Planning difficulties force Warner Brothers to drop plan for pounds 225 m Movie World in Hillingdon

Warner Brothers, the Hollywood film studio, and United News and Media, publisher of the Express newspaper titles, have scrapped their plan to build a pounds 225m Movie World theme park in north-west London.

Difficulties in securing planning permission were responsible for the decision.

The site was to have been Britain's largest single-venue leisure destination in the UK, with up to 3.5 million visitors a year. Currently, Alton Towers in Staffordshire is the biggest, attracting just over 3 million visitors a year, although Blackpool Pleasure Beach draws in 7 million annually.

Both parties say they are committed to finding another site, while Hillingdon Borough Council has offered to try to find a replacement venue.

The news is a set-back in the short term, however, for United News' aspirations to develop a broad spectrum of media-linked businesses.

Movie World, as well as housing the first new film studio to be built in Britain since the end of the Second World War, would have featured white-knuckle rides like the "Batman roller-coaster". With its vast film and TV studios, the project would have created 900 permanent jobs, and an estimated 3,500 more through knock-on trade. It was expected to contribute pounds 173m to Britain's balance of trade figures.

It would also have been the first big challenge to DisneyLand Paris, bringing the concept of the American theme park to the UK.

Terry Ilott, director of public affairs for Movie World, said: "It's a disappointment - and a relief. A disappointment after all the time and effort, but a relief to have found out at this early stage the project was unworkable at this site."

Although Hillingdon was the best site for Movie World, Warner and its advisers are already looking at other sites, including ones between Birmingham and London. "There are lots of disused airfields and the like, which could provide a suitable alternative to Hillingdon," said Mr Ilott.

The problems revolved around existing users of the 150-acre site. Warner found an alternative site for the Middlesex County Show three miles away, which would have cost millions to develop properly, but replacing some of the existing leisure facilities on the site proved a more intractable problem.

Warner promised to build a pounds 4m sports centre, with an indoor swimming pool, at Uxbridge College. As part of the deal, however, Uxbridge College insisted on an extra classroom block as well.

Meanwhile, the council was unwilling to accept the sports complex as its own asset. This was because the sports centre would have been counted as a capital receipt, and for every capital receipt, a council must reduce its debt by 50 per cent of the value of the receipt.

This would have meant Hillingdon finding pounds 2m in cash to reduce its debts - money it was reluctant to put up. Nor did Warner want to own and manage a local sports facility as part of its obligation to the council.

"In the meantime," said Mr Ilott, "costs were ratcheting up, and we found that if we pursued this through the expense of a public inquiry, we would be unable to meet our return-on-investment targets."

One site being examined by Warner is close to the M1. It was initially rejected when a search began in 1994, because the Department of Transport planned to reduce the road at that point to single-lane traffic for lane widening to be carried out. However, the improvements are no longer to be made, and Mr Ilott said the joint venture would look at the site again, along with others.

Earlier this week, Warner signed up as a tenant in a pounds 500m redevelopment of Battersea Power Station in south London. With its partner, the Australian media company Village Roadshow, it will build a multi-screen cinema complex. The pull-out from Hillingdon, however, represents a temporary set-back for the UK film industry, which has recently been on a roll. It is, however entirely in the tradition of an industry famous for disappointing its followers.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Executive - OTE £25,000

£13000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Would you like to be part of a ...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + competitive: SThree: Are you passionate about sale...

Ashdown Group: Graduate Developer (Trainee) - City, London

£25000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A large financial services company...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Assistant - Financial Services Sector - London

£20400 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and highly reputable organisat...

Day In a Page

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory
Ashes 2015: Alastair Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Aussie skipper Michael Clarke was lured into believing that what we witnessed at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge would continue in London, says Kevin Garside
Can Rafael Benitez get the best out of Gareth Bale at Real Madrid?

Can Benitez get the best out of Bale?

Back at the club he watched as a boy, the pressure is on Benitez to find a winning blend from Real's multiple talents. As La Liga begins, Pete Jenson asks if it will be enough to stop Barcelona
Athletics World Championships 2015: Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jessica Ennis-Hill and Katarina Johnson-Thompson heptathlon rivalry

Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jess and Kat rivalry

The last time the two British heptathletes competed, Ennis-Hill was on the way to Olympic gold and Johnson-Thompson was just a promising teenager. But a lot has happened in the following three years
Jeremy Corbyn: Joining a shrewd operator desperate for power as he visits the North East

Jeremy Corbyn interview: A shrewd operator desperate for power

His radical anti-austerity agenda has caught the imagination of the left and politically disaffected and set a staid Labour leadership election alight
Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief: Defender of ancient city's past was killed for protecting its future

Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief

Robert Fisk on the defender of the ancient city's past who was killed for protecting its future