Government won’t commit to theme park proposal response before summer

Universal Globe at theme park. Image: Universal Destinations & Experiences
Image: Universal Destinations & Experiences

Culture, media and sport secretary, Lucy Frazer KC MP has dodged a question from North Bedfordshire MP Richard Fuller (Conservative) asking if the government will respond to the Universal Studios UK proposal before the summer recess.

Last month Mr Fuller asked Ms Frazer to assure him and other Bedfordshire MPs that she is “working hard with the Treasury” to get a response to that proposal and that “a Government proposal will be forthcoming before the summer?”

Having a response before the summer will mean council officers, government officials and representatives from Universal Theme Parks & Resorts can continue to work on various aspects of the project without delays created by MPs in recess.

This will be particularly helpful if the government takes over planning decisions for the park as it has been suggested it might.

Read: Universal Studios decision could be out of local council’s hands

Responding to Mr Fuller’s question, Ms Frazer refused to give any indication of when a response to the proposals would be.

Vote of confidence in the UK

“My honourable friend it’s right to raise this very exciting opportunity in Bedfordshire, and it’s a matter I am very pleased to have discussed with him, she said.

“As I have said, I think it’s an opportunity for the area. We are liaising closely with the Treasury, and I am happy also to continue liaising with him,” she said.

Mr Fuller revealed he asked the question on his Facebook page and despite admitting the theme park would not be in his constituency, he has given his full support for it going ahead, “as long as financial and environmental conditions are met”.

But he did ask if it was something that would be “generally supported by my constituents?” highlighting the £10 billion investment as a “major vote of confidence in the UK”.

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The story so far

Rumours of a Universal theme park first came to light when the theme park dedicated blog, Orlando Park Stop published financial records, details of land purchased, and evidence that a Universal Studios theme park resort could be built in Stewartby.

Read: Universal Studios confirm they are planning a theme park in Bedford ok Borough

The Bedford Independent then exclusively confirmed the reports after being the only news desk to have taken the time to speak with a representative of Universal Theme Parks & Resorts.

When asked in December if they could confirm the rumours, a spokesperson told our reporters, “We recently acquired land in Bedford [Borough] and are at the early stages of exploring its feasibility for a potential park and resort at this site…”

Since then there have been surveys and meetings, as well as a website set up, to gather the opinions of Bedfordians about the plans.

Read: Bedford, “It’s a great place to build a theme park”, says Universal’s new ventures president

There have also been various meetings with political leaders including Mayor of Bedford Tom Wootton, Bedford & Kempston MP Mohammad Yasin (Labour), various ward and parish councillors from across Bedford’s political spectrum, and other stakeholders.

Comcast, the parent company for Universal Theme Parks & Resorts first discussed their potential plans with former Mayor Dave Hodgson (Liberal Democrats) in late 2022 but this was not revealed until earlier this year for commercial reasons.