Forget Disneyland Paris. Now it's Paramount World … Swanscombe
Developers plan £2bn Hollywood-inspired resort on former industrial site in Kent
The Swanscombe peninsula in Kent, where 150mph trains tear past cows munching on alkaline grass in contaminated soil, in the shadow of giant cranes and towers of shipping containers overlooking the Thames estuary, does not scream "Hollywood".
But if detailed and already rather advanced plans are approved, it will be here – next to Ebbsfleet International railway station – that Britain's first branded leisure resort will open at a cost of about £2bn in 2018.
A handful of parties, including the French cement manufacturer Lafarge, which owns the 872-acre site, have come together to form London Resort Company Holdings (LRCH).
The consortium has a licence from one of Hollywood's leading film studios, Paramount Pictures, to open a theme park and branded with Paramount movies such as Braveheart, Titanic or whatever hits it produces between now and 2018.
The resort, which could be reached from central London in just 17 minutes by high-speed rail link, would include Europe's largest indoor water park and biggest performing arts centre, a giant roller coaster, music venues, cinemas, hotels and restaurants. It would also create 27,000 jobs.
"This is not just another of the crazy schemes you see in the leisure industry – not just two days work by an artist," said Tony Sefton, the project leader for LRCH. "We have spent three years on this. We have every type of report, analysis and design you could imagine, we have long-term licence from Paramount, the first in the UK."
The next stage is to secure planning consent. "We are working very closely with local and regional authorities, and they are keen to get this approved," Mr Sefton said. He admitted that securing the £2bn needed to build the park would be a challenge but said the past three months had provided an incredible boost. "We are riding on the back of the Olympics and Paralympics," he added. "A lot of people saw that and now they want to invest in the UK."
Visitors to the site today might find reminders of the Olympics. A little wedge of flat, green countryside, poking into the Thames but surrounded by the ugly reality of heavy industry, seems eerily similar to Danny Boyle's Opening Ceremony at London 2012.
Some locals are already enthusiastic about the park. "It would bring enormous benefits," said Morris Chater, 58, a cleaner at Ebbsfleet, who lives near the proposed site. Pointing towards a Eurostar train bound for Paris, he added: "You might have people from over there coming here, rather than people from here going over there. And this area needs jobs as well."
Local councillors have called the proposal a "tremendous economic growth opportunity for the region". But the plans are expected to meet opposition from environmentalists because of the potential damage to wildlife in the area.
Movie magic: the proposals
The resort would feature roller coasters, thrill rides and a giant water park, but its planners say a "wide audience" is important and it would need to be in action "almost 24 hours a day".
There would be areas for young mothers with children, and play areas open early in the morning, as well as shows and performances. The theatres would open in the evenings and the clubs and bars later on.
The consortium's licensing deal with Paramount Pictures means that Paramount movies would feature heavily and be crucial to the park's long-term success. Titanic, Braveheart, the Transformers series and the remake of The Italian Job were all made by the US studio. The release of new Paramount blockbusters will allow the resort to permanently re-brand and reinvent itself – a practice already perfected by Disney and Universal Studios theme parks.
A similar resort is due to open Spain in 2015. The Paramount park in Murcia will feature a Titanic Experience and rides based on Mission: Impossible, Star Trek and War Of The Worlds.
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