Councillors have approved plans for a £37 million South Yorkshire theme park on a former colliery.
Members of Rotherham Council's planning committee visited the site of the proposed Gulliver's Valley resort, on the Pit House West site near Rotherham, before making their decision.
Planning officers recommended the plans, which include the main theme park, a water play zone, climbing centre, glades attraction and an education and ecology centre, be approved. This is despite the land being within the green belt, where development is usually forbidden.
Many people living nearby had also raised concerns about traffic and noise pollution.
Gulliver's Valley - proposed by the firm that runs Gulliver's Kingdom near Matlock - will provide accommodation in the form of 'glamping', self-catering lodges and hotels. It will have nature trails, walks, outdoor gyms and woodland runs and is expected to create around 400 jobs.
Because of its status as 'inappropriate' development in the green belt, the decision has now been referred to the secretary of state, who has 21 days to raise any objections before the application can be signed off.
A report to the planning board said: “The proposed development is considered to constitute inappropriate development within the green belt, however very special circumstances are considered to exist due to the economic benefits of the development in terms of increased local employment opportunities and the increase in numbers of tourists and visitors to Rotherham.
“The proposal will positively contribute to the local economy and tourism opportunities with a diverse range of job opportunities created both within the construction and operational phases, and will create up to 125 full time jobs and 325 part time jobs. The proposal will attract tourists to Rotherham which would be beneficial for the local economy.”
Gulliver's hope to begin construction before the end of the year and the first phase of development — the main entrance and access roads, theme park hub and core parking — could be open in 2020.
The original 330-acre site earmarked for development was reduced to 250 acres in May last year after investigations found 'potential ground contamination'.
Pithouse West was the site of Brookhouse Colliery, which closed in 1985. In 2003 it was announced it would be the home of a £350m project called YES!, encompassing a 5,000-seat arena for the Sheffield Steelers ice hockey team, and the biggest undercover leisure complex in Europe.
The plan, which would have created 3,000 jobs, was dropped nearly six years ago in favour of a £100m theme park called Visions of China, which promised a Shaolin temple, a theatre, pagoda and hotel. The council cancelled the scheme two years ago, blaming a lack of progress.
The latest proposals, put at a more modest £37m, will see the staged building of a children’s theme park, with construction spaced over 12 to 15 years, depending on weather and market conditions.
Today’s top stories: