Thorpe Park ride heading for government review

Thorpe Park Project Exodus rollercoaster

Runnymede Borough Council says it intends to refer plans for a new rollercoaster at Thorpe Park to the UK government for review.

Following ongoing objections from the Environment Agency (EA) based on flooding risks, the 2024-planned ride’s future will now likely be decided upon in Westminster.

In certain circumstances, the Secretary of State (SOS) for ‘Levelling Up, Housing and Communities’ has the authority to decide planning applications rather than letting the local authority decide.

With the EA’s objections not yet resolved, the local authority must refer the matter to the SOS unless objections are withdrawn.

In a letter dated 27 September, the council said: “Officers have decided to take this planning application forward with a recommendation for Members of the Planning committee to approve, subject to referral to the SOS.”

In its letter, the council adds that the application “must proceed” to a final determination and reiterates its mindedness to approve the ride proposals.

2024 opening in jeopardy

The EA has 14 days from the late of the letter to withdraw its objections, which both representatives of Thorpe Park and RBC have challenged based on the EA’s rationale for approving developments in the past.

Thorpe Park Project Exodus rollercoaster
The 236-foot (72-metre) ride will allegedly cost £18 million

The current SOS is the relatively inexperienced Simon Clarke, 38, who was appointed by prime minister Liz Truss on 6 September.

Planners for Thorpe Park have said that the rollercoaster’s proposed 2024 opening date would be under threat if there were further delays with the application.

The timeframe for any decision by the SOS is not clear.

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 reiterated earlier this month despite revised risk assessments by Thorpe Park’s consultant architects Lichfields.