The Environment Agency (EA) has maintained its objections to the proposed 2024 rollercoaster at Thorpe Park.
In a letter date 31 August, the agency said that it maintains its objections following an unsatisfactory response to its flooding concerns.
If built, the rollercoaster would be the UK’s tallest, and possibly fastest. It is currently dubbed ‘Project Exodus’.
In June, the EA said that planners needed to prove that either the rollercoaster would not be situated in a flood zone or that all other potential locations were of greater risk.
The EA recommended that planning permission be refused on this basis, a position which it maintains this week.
Under planning regulations, Thorpe Park is required to satisfy the EA that it is addressing the sources of their objections.
The basis of the agency’s key objection is that the rollercoaster cannot be situated in what is known as Flood Zone 3b, which current plans show that it is.
‘Vulnerable to legal challenge’
Ride planners have attempted to respond to the EA’s objection by stating that the risks are mitigated, but this has not satisfied the EA’s concerns.
Ride planners can apply directly to the UK government for permission to build as the proposals stand, but this is unlikely to be successful for a project of relatively small scale.
In any case, Runnymede Borough Council would be required to refer the application to the government if it were minded to approve the plans despite the EA’s objections.
The agency quoted the Town and Country Planning (Consultation) (England) Direction 2021, a legal document known as a statutory instrument.
Addressing the council, the letter read: “This statutory instrument prevents you from issuing planning permission without first referring the application to the Secretary of State to give them the opportunity to call-in the application for their own determination.”
The EA outlined how that process must be followed unless it were to withdraw its objections.
“A failure to follow this statutory process could render any decision unlawful, and the resultant permission vulnerable to legal challenge,” the EA’s planning advisor wrote.
The 236-foot (72-metre) rollercoaster is now increasingly likely to be delayed beyond its early-2024 proposed opening date.
According to Thorpe Park, the ride would represent an £18 million investment in the Surrey theme park.
A train concept image suggests that the rollercoaster will be built by Germany’s Mack Rides, whose last major UK addition was Icon at Blackpool Pleasure Beach in 2018.