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Newhaven water park proposals unveiled
The Newhaven water park is being billed as the much-needed redevelopment Newhaven has been waiting for.
The £350million project, complete with a 400-bed hotel,would create at least 650 jobs and another 3,000 in the surrounding area.
Sat on the river banks it will reinvigorate the port, drawing in tourists from Eastbourne and Brighton and even France, breathing new life into the ferry link to the continent, developers Round Table Entertainment said at their exhibition of plansy.
But while the project backers, and some residents, spoke enthusiastically about the scheme, many at the event queried the lack of information on display.
John Adams from Newhaven questioned where detailed plans for the project were, adding: “I was expecting a scale model at least.”
Resident Elizabeth Lonsbrough, 88, described the project as “gimmicky”, adding: “What worries me is whether it will really be viable.
“I wouldn’t want to lose the natural land here to build on and then they go broke and leave us with the relic.”
Dominic Howson, European director of Kuwaiti-based investors KEH Developments which is backing the project, promised it will be a long-term investment.
“We want to be here, operating it, for the next 40 or 50 years. We can get strong steady returns and this is something we can build the company around.
“Why give up on something that has really good long-term prospects? Look at London, Leeds and Newcastle – all redeveloping the waterfront and making the most of it.”
Project director John Lawrence added: “I just think it’s going to be something else. It’s not just going to be unique in Europe, it’s going to be a destination worldwide.”
Lewes District Council chairman Tony Nicholson added his support to the scheme: “It’s great that someone’s chosen Newhaven.”
The consultation at The Hillcrest Centre will help to shape the project, which is set to include antigravity slides, slides through shark tanks, wave machines and rapid pools.
The only image on display was a black and white line drawing – for a good reason, explained architects David Ola and Ian Upton from South Kensington and Kent-based Studio O+U.
MrOla said: “If you give someone an artist impression it will please some people and upset others.
“But if you present a grainy image you can take on board people’s views without alienating them.
“It’s an urban regeneration scheme, not just a water park.”
Newhaven has been chosen as the location because a lot of Kuwaitis studied English in Eastbourne in the 1970s and 1980s, according toMr Howson.
He said: “They really wanted us to look in this area – the furthest we looked at was Burgess Hill.
“With a project of this size it’s always difficult to find a suitable plot.
“Eastbourne attracts four million tourists, Brighton attracts eight million tourists, and here we can create an attraction in an existing tourist market.
“With the South Downs behind there is a lot of opportunity for creating walks. And we are in talks about getting heat and electricity from the incinerator – the potential to make this one of the greenest projects in the world.
“We’ve got a world leading approach to get the biggest and the best.”
They are promising 25% of businesses used in the construction will be from the area and, once open, there will be a 40% discount for locals.
Lewes District Council’s Rob Blackman, who is responsible for business, economic development and tourism, is “very excited” by the water park plans.
“I think this is the most important project which has come to Sussex in many a year. It ticks pretty much every box.
“I know there’s been controversy around the sale of the recreation ground. Why did we make the decision to make sure that the water park came to our area rather than anywhere else?
“As councillors we know that our budgets are shrinking and don’t have the money we would like to have to regenerate areas.
“Unless we have people come here with large scale projects we can’t do any of the things we want to do to regenerate areas.”
Full detailed plans are due to be revealed in mid-January, with hopes that a full planning application will be submitted in July 2013.