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.

Voices
voicesGood for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, writes Grace Dent
News
The University of California study monitored the reaction of 36 dogs
sciencePets' range of emotions revealed
Life and Style
fashion Designs are part of feminist art project by a British student
News
Joining forces: young British men feature in an Isis video in which they urge Islamists in the West to join them in Iraq and Syria
newsWill the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
The nomination of 'The Wake' by Paul Kingsnorth has caused a stir
books
Arts and Entertainment
The Tour de France peloton rides over a bridge on the Grinton Moor, Yorkshire, earlier this month
film
News
Snoop Dogg pictured at The Hollywood Reporter Nominees' Night in February, 2013
people... says Snoop Dogg
News
i100
Life and Style
food + drinkZebra meat is exotic and lean - but does it taste good?
Arts and Entertainment
Residents of Derby Road in Southampton oppose filming of Channel 4 documentary Immigration Street in their community
tv
Voices
voicesSiobhan Norton on why she eventually changed her mind
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
i100
Extras
indybest
Sport
Scottish singer Susan Boyle will perform at the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony in Glasgow
commonwealth games
Arts and Entertainment
Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson stars in Hercules
filmReview: The Rock is a muscular Davy Crockett in this preposterous film, says Geoffrey Macnab
Life and Style
tech
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

PMO Analyst - London - Banking - £350 - £400

£350 - £400 per day: Orgtel: PMO Analyst - Banking - London - £350 -£400 per d...

Cost Reporting-MI Packs-Edinburgh-Bank-£350/day

£300 - £350 per day + competitive: Orgtel: Cost Reporting Manager - MI Packs -...

Insight Analyst – Permanent – Up to £40k – North London

£35000 - £40000 Per Annum plus 23 days holiday and pension scheme: Clearwater ...

Test Lead - London - Investment Banking

£475 - £525 per day: Orgtel: Test Lead, London, Investment Banking, Technical ...

Day In a Page

Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Climate change threatens to make the antarctic fur seal extinct

Take a good look while you can

How climate change could wipe out this seal
Man Booker Prize 2014 longlist: Crowdfunded novel nominated for first time

Crowdfunded novel nominated for Booker Prize

Paul Kingsnorth's 'The Wake' is in contention for the prestigious award
Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

A $25m thriller starring Sam Worthington to be made in God's Own Country
Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

A land of the outright bizarre
What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

The worst kept secret in cinema

A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

The new hatched, matched and dispatched

Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements
Why do we have blood types?

Are you my type?

All of us have one but probably never wondered why. Yet even now, a century after blood types were discovered, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Honesty box hotels: You decide how much you pay

Honesty box hotels

Five hotels in Paris now allow guests to pay only what they think their stay was worth. It seems fraught with financial risk, but the honesty policy has its benefit
Commonwealth Games 2014: Why weight of pressure rests easy on Michael Jamieson’s shoulders

Michael Jamieson: Why weight of pressure rests easy on his shoulders

The Scottish swimmer is ready for ‘the biggest race of my life’ at the Commonwealth Games
Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

The 'scroungers’ fight back

The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
A Bible for billionaires

A Bible for billionaires

Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes