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Universal Studios planning first UK theme park after buying land in Bedford

A vast area of land has been acquired by the Hollywood studio

Benjamin Parker
Wednesday 20 December 2023 17:33 GMT
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A Universal Studios resort could be coming to the UK after the theme park giant purchased a large portion of land in Bedfordshire.

The parks division of the media empire has bought land covering almost 500 acres in Stewartby, which is around 15 minutes from Bedford by car and close to Kempston Hardwick railway station. A proposed resort would also be easily accessible from London Luton airport, and less than an hour away from London.

A theme park in England would join the Universal roster of locations that includes Los Angeles in the US and Osaka, Japan, where there are whole areas themed around the Harry Potter book and film series, plus a Super Nintendo section focused on gaming franchises such as Super Mario and Donkey Kong.

Universal Kids Resort is currently under construction in Texas, with plans to open its doors in 2026.

“We recently acquired land in Bedford and are at the early stages of exploring its feasibility for a potential park and resort at this site,” a spokesperson for Universal Destinations & Experiences told The Independent.

“It will be many months before we are ready to make a decision to proceed and we look forward to engaging with all relevant stakeholders and the local community.”

The large parcel of land in Bedfordshire purchased by Universal Destinations & Experiences (Supplied)

It is expected to take many months before a decision is reached about whether to proceed with the resort.

There have been rumours of a possible expansion into the UK for some time but this is the most advanced the plans have been. The country is considered appealing due to the large population, creative industries, strong tourism and transportation infrastructure, plus close proximity to continental Europe.

In September, the domain names universalstudiosgreatbritain.com and universalgreatbritain.com, as well as .co.uk extensions, were registered by NBCUniversal.

And according to ParkStop, a website dedicated to theme park news, a financial statement released after parent company Comcast’s third quarter in October 2023 disclosed that $271 million “associated with the acquisition of land for potential theme park expansion opportunities” had been spent.

A Universal Studios resort would add another major attraction to southern England, following Warner Bros. Studio Tour London – The Making of Harry Potter in Watford. More than 16 million people have visited the wizarding world since it opened in 2021.

Tom Wootton, the elected mayor of Bedford Borough Council, told BBC News: “The suggestion of a major business investment is of course positive, nevertheless these are early days and much detailed work is required before any decisions are made.

“We very much welcome and are excited by the interest from Universal and the immense potential for it to be transformative for the borough. We’re committed to ensure that any plans align with the best interests of our residents.”

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