2024-07-02 jiangye111 4760
First Universal theme park in Europe to generate '£50bn of economic benefits for UK'
-Universal's proposed theme park in Bedford is to open 365 days a year and contain 500 hotel rooms and a dining area open to non-ticket holders.


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(Universal Studios Florida in Orlando.)


New details have been unveiled for Universal's first UK theme park - including plans for the attraction to be open 365 days a year.


Universal Destinations & Experiences - which is owned by Sky's parent company Comcast - has bought land near Bedford as it plans to build Europe's largest theme park with millions of visitors per year, as well as a 500-room hotel and dining area.


Economic benefits


Universal's economic impact analysis, produced in line with HM Treasury guidelines on economic appraisal and published today suggests the attraction will generate nearly £50bn of economic benefits for the UK.


It said the net economic contribution of the potential project for the UK was forecast to be £35.1bn over the construction period and first 20 years of operation.

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Up to a further £14.1bn was expected to be generated in extra taxes for the exchequer over the same period.


The analysis suggests the project will generate 20,000 jobs during the construction period which, at its peak, will see 5,000 workers on the site.


Once operational, it is expected to create an initial 8,000 new jobs, rising over time. The company has made a commitment to pay the living wage to employees.


'The best location we've ever seen'


Universal has acquired almost 500 acres for the site, which is just south of Bedford between Kempston, Wootton, Stewartby and Wixams, with an option to buy up to a further 60 acres.


The new park, which would have a construction period of around six years, would be built on land once occupied by Kempston Hardwick brickworks, once the world's largest brickworks in terms of output, which closed in 2008 and which was demolished in September 2021.

新公园的建设期约为6年,将建在曾经被Kempston Hardwick砖厂占用的土地上,该砖厂曾是世界上产量最大的砖厂,于2008年关闭,并于2021年9月拆除。

"I can tell you it's going to be a world-class park with all experiences that people will love based upon the most popular films, video games and stories that people have enjoyed for decades," said Page Thompson, the company's president in charge of new ventures.

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"We've spent the last decade looking all over Europe and the United Kingdom for locations, and we think this is the best location we've ever seen."


Universal Destinations & Experiences currently has five theme parks around the world - in the United States, Japan, China and Singapore.


Disneyland Paris, which with the associated Walt Disney Studios Park is currently Europe's biggest theme park, attracts around 15 million visitors per year.


New details


"Our phase one plans consist of a theme park, a 500-room hotel and a dining area that people can come to even if they don't have a theme park ticket," Mr Thompson told Sky News.


"Over time, I would expect the number of hotels to grow.

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"Our intention is that this park would be open 365 days a year, just like all of our other major theme parks.


"We have a whole series of special events, like our Halloween Horror Nights and carnival parties... and it just allows us to attract people throughout this time."


Universal said evidence from its other theme parks suggested that for every job supported within the parks at least 1.5 further jobs could be supported in the supply chain and neighbouring parts of the economy - leading to its expectation of a net additional 20,000 jobs.


Plenty of competition


The investment is not without risks and not least because of its scale.


Of Europe's 20 most visited theme parks, four - Legoland Windsor, Alton Towers, Chessington World of Adventures and Thorpe Park - are in the UK, all owned by the former FTSE-100 giant Merlin Entertainments. Their combined visitor numbers annually come to around half of what Universal is targeting.


There is also plenty of competition.


Locally, not far from the proposed Bedfordshire site is the Harry Potter Experience at the Warner Bros studio tour near Watford, while there is Woburn Safari Park to the immediate north and Whipsnade Zoo to the immediate west of Luton.


There is no shortage of quality options for family days out. Further afield Europe already has more than 1,000 theme and amusement parks, many of them owned by Merlin, renowned for its astute management.


The weather issue


A third factor, potentially, is the weather. This is something that already handicaps a lot of theme parks in northern Europe, such as Liseberg in the Swedish city of Gothenburg, the Tivoli Gardens in the Danish capital Copenhagen and the original Legoland, in the Danish city of Billund, which close for some or all of the winter. So does Phantasialand, one of Germany's biggest and most popular attractions.


Universal Destinations & Experiences, however, is thought to be undeterred by the English weather and points to the fact that the weather is not always perfect in other parts of the world in which it operates, most notably China and Japan.


The Paris experience

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The company also appears undeterred by the experience of Disney in Paris.

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The original Euro Disney was loss-making for many years - partly due to mismanagement and partly due to a misunderstanding of what European and particularly French consumers were looking for - and it has only really been since it was fully consumed by the Walt Disney Company, in 2017, that it has been effectively run.


Transport challenges


Another big risk is the transport lixs. Universal Destinations & Experiences - the name was changed last year from Universal Parks & Resorts to better reflect the kind of services customers will be offered in future in both the physical and virtual worlds - has sexted the site primarily for its rail and road lixs to London and, with one in three visitors expected to come from overseas, for its proximity to Luton Airport.

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Yet those lixs are not currently up to handling the kind of visitor numbers Universal Destinations & Experiences is expecting.


The M1, the main road lix to London, is frequently congested around the Luton turn-off at junction 10 and the road lixs from there to the site in need of improvement.


Accordingly, Universal Destinations & Experiences will be seeking government incentives to invest in local road and rail lixs.


Support could also come from East West Rail, the proposed new main line railway connecting East Anglia and South Wales, the first phase of which is a line between Oxford and Cambridge and for which a new station at Kempston Hardwick - whose existing station backs onto the land the park would operate - has been proposed.


The planning process


Riskiest of all, perhaps, is the planning process. Local businesses and MPs are supportive while both Jeremy Hunt, the Chancellor and Mark Harper, the Transport Secretary, have been briefed on the project. Planning proposals have been submitted and Universal Destinations & Experiences has held talks with Bedford Borough and Central Bedfordshire Councils.

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However, Mr Thompson confirmed that Universal Destinations & Experiences is seeking planning permission via a so-called special development order - which would take the decision out of the hands of the local authorities and instead leave the final decision on planning consent with the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities.


A roll of the dice


So this is a big roll of the dice by Universal Destinations & Experiences.


The investment - the first phase of which will be several billion pounds - will take many years to pay off while thrill-seekers should probably not expect the resort to be up and running much before the end of the decade.

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However, starting with a blank sheet of paper as it opens its first European venue, Universal Destinations & Experiences has the opportunity to bring something genuinely new not just to the UK but to Europe.


The name change made by the business last year reflects the fact that, in future, the business expects to be offering branded entertainment, culinary, gaming and consumer product experiences that go a lot further than the traditional theme park and resort offerings.

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There could even be experiences at the resort which have yet to be conceived. It could be quite the ride.


I can only just imagine the community action groups and various ‘NOT IN KEEPING WITH THE AREA’ complaints that are being prepared, as hardcore NIMBYs do whatever they can to block this.


It would be great to have a true theme park in this country. As much as I love Alton Towers and Thorpe Park, they can't compete with the quality of other European and American parks.
Even if it manages to go ahead I can't see it happening without height and noise restrictions being imposed which would really limit the park's potential.


I am really hoping for a UK Super Nintendo World. The Universal Studios park that has one in Japan is amazing, and the UK theme parks don’t even come close to how high tech it feels.


Yeah I've got kids pestering like mad to go and I don't really want a family holiday to Japan or the US just for Nintendo World, so one on the doorstep -- yes.
Problem is the kids will be grown up by the time it gets built.


No high speed rail lixs from Europe direct though because London is like a giant sponge soaking up all the infrastructure investment.


sonofaBilicUnited Kingdom
The line could do with a refresh and more trains, but Eurostar to St Pancras, St. Pancras to Bedford in 35mins is a pretty speedy and direct route already.


There are several multi-billion pound projects proposed and privately funded in the UK that would provide thousands of jobs and true investment in terms of also paving the way for supporting infrastructure, like roads, housing, schools etc.
They all need to happen.
NIMBYism needs to be stamped out, even if it means Central Government end up over-riding some local decisions that benefit the greater majority.


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Only problems I see is that the road and rail infrastructure can't currently handle 20 million tourists.
And I seriously doubt that Bedford has enough hotels for them all.
So those things are going to have to be addressed at the same time or there's no way this is going to work.


Whoever greenlit this really doesn’t ask the proper questions and is surrounded by Yes men.
The UK universal will be grim, grey, staffed with 16 year old McDonald’s rejects with the worst regional accents you’ve ever heard.
Someone really had to acknowledge that the Americans just do theme parks and customer service infinitely better than us. It’ll be an absolutely dire and it’ll be development hell for it being built. When it finally opens, it’ll cost an arm and a leg and be atrocious.


We can’t build high speed rail effectively or corner renewables - but we can build a theme park. Tory dividends just keep coming.


If you own a house in the area you should be absolutely ecstatic, I'm sure being near the biggest tourist attraction in the UK would make the house values rise rapidly


I live not a million miles away, and a few colleagues live in the surrounding villages.
Thankfully, the general consensus is that locals are excited for it. Of course there are some moaners, but I think people have taken pretty positively to it.


Problem with our ones is space, like they’re big, you need to just straight up terraform like 10 square km, which is no easy feat and good luck finding anywhere to do that near any decently populated areas


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