A MILESTONE has been reached in the £118 million project to transform a former opencast coal mine into the UK’s first Chinese theme park.
Rotherham Council has completed the sale agreement and head lease for the Visions of China project to leisure organisation China Vision Ltd and regeneration specialist MCD Developments.
The scheme is proposed for the former Pithouse West colliery site, north of Rother Valley Country Park.
The site had been earmarked for the £350million YES! Project leisure development but property company Oak Holdings pulled out of the scheme.
A council spokesman said: “The scheme represents a capital investment of over £100 million, with significant benefits to the local economy and supply chain.
“In addition there will be significant tourism and leisure benefits for the region and beyond.”
MCD Developments needed the agreement to be signed to allow it to access funding for the project, which will see an ‘authentically-built and landscaped Chinese environment’ created.
Attractions will range from oriental lakes and gardens to a China Town retail street, a Shaolin temple and cultural centre, theatre, children’s fantasy land, restaurants, an oriental spa, pavilions, a pagoda and a hotel.
The park aims to attract 1.5m visitors each year – including some of the growing number of Chinese students in South Yorkshire.
Developers are led by Peter Moore, who helped establish Centre Parcs, and Stephen Byrne, chief executive of Birmingham-based MCD Developments.
Rotherham Council’s overview and scrutiny management board agreed that the decision was urgent and could not reasonably be deferred.
Visions of China was first announced in August 2011 and the scheme is set to create 580 jobs – 200 in the construction phase and 300 once it opens.
Mr Moore, a former marketing director at Alton Towers and chief executive of the Visions of China consortium, said: “I believe it will be, no doubt, one of the most exciting projects British tourism will have seen for decades.”
A date has not yet been set for when construction will begin and a full planning application must be submitted.
Outline permission for leisure development has already been approved.