A massive new family theme park could open by Rother Valley Country Park - with construction potentially starting next year, it has been announced.
Rotherham Council has agreed to sell the former Pithouse West opencast colliery site to Gulliver’s Family Theme Parks, who currently run parks at Matlock Bath, Warrington and Milton Keynes.
The decision is subject to certain conditions being met and planning permission being approved but, if successful, building work could start as early as next year.
It follows previous failed attempts to develop the greenbelt site.
In 2011, leisure organisation China Vision were confirmed as preferred developers for the site to create a Chinese-themed attraction but last year a new partner was sought by the council following a lack of progress with that plan.
Prior to that, a proposal for it to be the home of a 5,000-seater arena for the Sheffield Steelers ice hockey team was scrapped.
If given the go-ahead, the theme park resort is expected to create the equivalent of more than 250 full-time jobs.
The company has said the new South Yorkshire park would be called ‘Gulliver’s Valley’.
Julie Dalton, managing director of Gulliver’s, said: “We’re really excited at the prospect of realising our dreams at Gulliver’s Valley and reproducing all the best elements of our existing three UK parks together on one site.
“We want to create a ‘whole park feel’, with nature trails, walks, outdoor gyms and woodland runs which can be used by our guests and the local community alike. Plus of course, the family theme park hub, which will be developed and operated in line with our core value of providing great value family days out that are big on fun.”
A council spokesman said Gulliver’s Valley Resort would be developed in four or five phases over a 12-year period.
Building the theme park section is expected to take around two years.
Plans include a year round family resort aimed at two to 13-year-olds offering rides, attractions, soft play and indoor fun, centred on themed areas around a main fairytale castle.
Other phases in the future include a woodland adventure centre, an education and ecology centre, a 100-bedroom hotel and 300 woodland lodges and ‘glamping’.
In agreeing to the sale of the 333-acre site Commissioner Julie Kenny said she was ‘absolutely delighted’ to see such a well-established family company planning to locate in the area.
She added: “This is a second-generation family-run business with a proven track record for building and operating family entertainment developments and I am proud that Gulliver’s has chosen the borough to develop their ‘Valley Resort’.
“It is third-time lucky for the council in the sale of this important site as two different sale agreements were entered into in the past decade. Both the previous agreements were terminated due to lack of progress but this time we are dealing with a self-financing family company who have been operating successfully for nearly 40 years.”
Coun Denise Lelliott, Rotherham Council’s Advisory Cabinet Member for Housing and the local economy, said it was an ‘extremely exciting’ development for the borough.
“Not only will it provide a year-round family resort for the under 13s but will also result in a massive boost to the area and the local economy. It will bring in jobs, training expertise and benefits and will complement activities at the adjacent Rother Valley Country Park.”