Focus stays on £118m Visions of China project

Visions of China theme park artist's impressions
Visions of China theme park artist's impressions

ANOTHER step has been taken towards the construction of the UK’s first Chinese theme park, near Rother Valley Country Park.

Rotherham Council has completed the sale agreement and head lease for the £118m Visions of China project to leisure organisation China Vision Ltd and regeneration specialist MCD Developments.

It is estimated that 1.5m visitors would visit the proposed attraction each year, drawn by its Oriental lakes and gardens, China Town retail street, Shaolin temple and cultural centre, theatre, children’s fantasy land, restaurants, pavilions, pagoda and hotel.

But there is still a long way to go. Although outline permission has been granted by the council, the details have yet to be approved, and no date has been set for a start on construction.

The 120 acre site is the former the Pithouse West coal mine and coking plant, to the north of Rother Valley Country Park and near junction 31 of the M1.

A council spokesman said: “The scheme represents a capital investment of over £100m, with significant benefits to the local economy and supply chain. 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 would see an ‘authentically-built and landscaped Chinese environment’.

Visitors are expected to include some of the growing number of Chinese students in South Yorkshire.

Developers are led by Peter Moore, who helped establish Center Parcs, and Stephen Byrne, chief executive of Birmingham-based MCD Developments.

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.”

Last September Rotherham council leader Roger Stone said: “Although there is some way to go, I can say that the project is making good progress with much work going on behind the scenes.

“Projects such as these do take a long time with much negotiation taking place that the public never get to hear about until it is signed, sealed and delivered.

“The New York Stadium was a case in point when it hosted Rotherham United’s first league game of the season.”

The site had been earmarked for the £350m YES! leisure development, including a theatre complex, extreme sports centre, four star resort spa and conference hotel, exhibition centre and golf range, along with restaurants and bars.

It was billed as the largest undercover tourism and leisure development in Europe, but the scheme, backed by property company Oak Holdings, failed to get off the ground.