I consider myself quite lucky to live very close to three of the UK’s best theme parks – Legoland Windsor, Thorpe Park and Chessington World of Adventures – and since becoming a stay-at-home dad five years ago, my daughter and I have visited them all frequently thanks to the wonderful Merlin Annual Pass. Thorpe Park is close enough that we can pop over for a couple of hours after school and grab a few adrenaline-filled rides and still be home in time for tea, and every school holiday is filled with trips to them all.
As great as they are, however, they can’t compare with the likes of the Universal Studios and Disney parks in California and Florida. Sure, Disneyland Paris is only a couple of hours by train, but even that feels small in comparison. The recently opened Harry Potter Studio Tour outside London is a fantastic day out, but doesn’t feature any of the rides and roller coasters of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Orlando. So I was very excited to read that Paramount is starting the process to bring a brand new movie-based theme park and entertainment center to Kent, just 17 minutes by train from London.
The site, on the Swanscombe peninsula, is a former cement factory twice the size of London’s Olympic park, and Paramount and its partners are hoping to turn it into the UK’s leading entertainment destination with a massive indoor water park, event spaces for concerts and shows, a retail park and of course, the theme park itself. It’s right by the new(ish) Ebbsfleet International Rail Station, which is also a direct line to Paris and Europe beyond. They’re in the early stages of planning at the moment, but if successful the park could create 27,000 new jobs in an area of relatively high youth unemployment and inject millions of pounds into the local economy.
The announcement marks a change in direction for Paramount, after owner CBS sold off all its US-based parks back in 2006 and the new owners removed all the Paramount branding and movie tie-ins. They now seem to want to get back into the action, as they have also just started building a similar park in Murcia, Spain, which is due to open in 2015. If they follow a similar route as shown in the video for the Kent park, we could see attractions and rides based on films and franchises such as Star Trek, Mission: Impossible, Rango, The Spiderwick Chronicles and even Titanic (ugh)! Some odd choices there, I know, but if the Star Trek ride turns out anything like Star Tours it should be worth it.
Of course, a 2 billion-pound investment doesn’t just pop up overnight – they think they have at least a year’s worth of planning negotiations before building can even commence, so the park won’t open until 2018! But at least that means my daughter will be old enough to go on all of the rides and will have seen the films they’re based on. I’ll be 46 then – I hope I’m still up for it, too!