CPRE has “balanced” view of possible Universal Studios in apparent seal of approval

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Universal Studios Theme Park- CPRE Bedfordshire position statement front cover
Universal Studios Theme Park: CPRE Bedfordshire position statement front cover

The Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) in Bedfordshire has said they have a “balanced view” on the possible plans that could see a Universal Studios theme park built in Bedford Borough.

In a ‘position statement’ issued yesterday, the organisation, which works with communities, businesses and government to make sure countryside and green spaces can thrive, wrote that they, “see the clear potential benefits to the local area”.

“Encouraged”

CPRE say they have been “encouraged” by what they have heard from Universal in what they call, “substantial environmental enhancements,” such as, “a nature-rich landscape of lakes and open green space to the former industrial site”.

With, “no reason to doubt the expressed commitment to develop the whole site with appropriate landscaping to protect the local area from intrusive impacts,” the said.

And they are “reassured” that Universal, “recognise that the provision of required infrastructure in terms of road and rail connections must be given the highest priority…”

“It is clear that the development of improvements to rail services which are already well advanced for the Marston Vale line and the new station at Wixams on the Thameslink line will be very well placed to serve the park,” said their statement.

A spokesperson from Universal Destinations and Experiences confirmed to this news desk that they have been communicating with CPRE as part of their engagement.

With this engagement in mind, CPRE does seem to give the theme park idea an apparent seal of approval, highlighting that a Universal theme park could “provide thousands of new jobs and a major boost to the local economy”.

“Local Plan 2040”

The CPRE statement does, however, highlight that if the land at the former Stewartby brickwork site is not utilised for housing, as originally intended, then that housing must now go elsewhere.

Read: Bedford Brickworks regeneration plans to go on display

As part of Bedford Borough’s Local Plan, those 4,000 homes would have contributed to the expected 27,100 dwellings needed in the area by 2040.

With this in mind, CPRE says they “take a balanced view of the project” with any relocation of housing originally intended for the land needing to be carefully considered.

“The one major concern we have about the project is the impact on the Local Plan and the need for BBC [Bedford Borough Council] to find an alternative location for the 4,000 houses proposed for allocation on this site.

“We consider this to be a matter for BBC, which we would be keen to discuss with them at the earliest opportunity,” they said.

In a statement, Bedford Borough Council said they are taking the impact a theme park may have on Local Plan 2040 into consideration.

“Bedford Borough Council welcomes the interest in developing this important strategic site in Bedford for a Leisure Resort,” said a council spokesperson when asked for a comment on the CPRE report.

“We are working with both Universal and central government to ensure the proposed development delivers long-lasting benefits locally if it goes ahead.

“We are currently evaluating the potential impact of the proposed development on our growth aspirations for the area, as set out in the emerging Local Plan.

“We will be responding to the Local Plan Inspector later this year when we have more clarity about whether the Universal scheme will be progressed”.

A public survey asking for feedback from local people on the potential plans closed on 3 May, with Universal Theme Parks and Resorts expected to comment on the results of that feedback in the coming days.

It’s not yet known when a firm decision will be made about their decision to submit an official planning application.