Countryside campaigners are calling for developers to be made to apply for new outline planning permission for the proposed Visions of China theme park.
The former Pit House West opencast site, next to Rother Valley Country Park, which is earmarked for the development already has outline planning permission for leisure development.
Council bosses say development consortium China Vision and MCD Developments need only apply for detailed consent for the scheme.
The outline planning permission was obtained as part of the Yes! Project to develop a leisure park at the site - but it did not go ahead because the developer could not obtain funding.
But the Campaign to Protect Rural England have called for developers of Visions of China to be forced to obtain totally new planning permission so that issues such as impact on the green belt can be considered.
Detailed planning consent is about the design of a development rather than the principle of whether it is suitable for a particular site.
John King, planning officer with CPRE South Yorkshire, said: “The creation of Shaolin temples, Shanghai streets, oriental tea houses, spas and a hotel will hardly be in keeping with the character of the area, and will have a significant effect on the appearance of the country park and the wider landscape.
“However you look at it, Visions of China is an original scheme. But we’re also really concerned about whether such a niche development can be sustained over the long term. And then what would happen? We don’t want to see a white elephant in Rotherham’s Green Belt.” The charity wants to see developers start a fresh application process, which would give local people a chance to examine and have their say about the new plans, it added.
Rotherham Council said the site does not legally require new outline planning permission.
Full details of the scheme will be debated when an application is made for full planning permission, a spokeswoman said.