Plans for potential new Universal Studios theme park near Bedford could be granted by Government

Universal Studios has bought land at Kempston Hardwick (Picture: Pixabay)Universal Studios has bought land at Kempston Hardwick (Picture: Pixabay)
Universal Studios has bought land at Kempston Hardwick (Picture: Pixabay)
A special development order could mean Bedford Borough and Central Bedfordshire councils don't make the decision

A multi-million pound project to open a Universal Studios theme park in Bedfordshire could be considered by the government under a specific planning arrangement.

Universal Destinations and Experiences has been exploring the potential for a new theme park and resort experience in the UK, on more than 475 acres of land at Kempston Hardwick, south of Bedford and to the north of its border with Central Bedfordshire.

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Its owners global firm Comcast runs theme parks in Florida and Hollywood in the United States, as well as in Singapore, China and Japan, based on movie-themed attractions.

“We’ve spent the last several months undertaking feasibility and due diligence work, while also discussing the project with local and national stakeholders,” it said in December.

An approach to the government for a planning decision could be made by the company in the coming months, according to Central Bedfordshire Council’s deputy leader and Independent Biggleswade West councillor Hayley Whitaker.

“Universal says it’s now looking to explore planning permission via a special development order,” she explained on social media. “This means the planning decision wouldn’t be made by CBC or Bedford Borough Council, but by the government.

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“Universal has said ‘one route for securing the necessary approvals to move ahead with our investment is through planning permission granted directly by government via a special development order, where appropriate, after consideration by a Secretary of State’.

“The decision to determine whether this route is appropriate is evaluated on a case-by-case basis. The Secretary of State at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) has agreed to act as the sponsor for the project within government.

“Consideration of any proposal will be subject to administrative arrangements to ensure functional separation between DCMS as sponsor department and the Department for Levelling Up Housing and Communities (DLUHC) as planning decision-maker, the government has indicated.

“It’s anticipated that public consultation by DLUHC will take place before any planning decisions, should the company decide to take the project forward.

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“Universal has acknowledged a planning submission would need to be accompanied by an environmental statement, which will be subject to public consultation and publicised,” added councillor Whitaker.

“This environmental statement, other relevant information and any comments made on its impact have to be taken into account when a planning decision is made.

“Indications are that Universal should make a final decision on the project within the coming months. It’s then down to the government to decide on the special development order.”

Public exhibitions are due to take place at Kimberley College, Green Lane, Stewartby, on Saturday (April 13) from 11am to 4pm and at Bedford College, Modern Methods of Construction (MMC) building on Cauldwell Street in Bedford from 4.30pm to 8pm next Tuesday, April 16.

Anyone can have their say on the planned development via the company website until Friday, May 3.