NEWS the biggest water park in the world could be built in Newhaven received a mixed reaction from the community this week.
The ambitious plan includes building a casino and a hotel, as part of a £350m development, which could create 500 jobs.
But there was also a strong feeling from Newhaven that it wanted better communication from the developer and the district council.
Newhaven MP Norman Baker said: “It is perhaps symbolic that the plans include a casino, because we are now playing for high stakes as far as Newhaven is concerned.
“For better or for worse, this massive scheme, if implemented, would completely transform Newhaven.
“On the one hand, £350m of investment is very welcome. On the other hand, do we want to transform much of the town into a theme park?
“It is vital therefore that the plans are published in full as soon as possible so that the people of Newhaven can decide their future direction, rather than having it discussed behind closed doors with them not even in the room.”
Cllr Steve Saunders (Newhaven Valley) said: “The potential for jobs and regeneration cannot be ignored, but neither can the wishes and expectations of the residents of the town and the surrounding areas.
“The secrecy and speed of the initial sale of such precious recreational and amenity land in the town has raised doubt and suspicion amongst residents and councillors alike and it is important to move forward in an open and transparent way, if the trust of the town of Newhaven is to be regained by the developers and the district council administration.”
Up until recently the council had been bound by the developer’s requirement for confidentiality, whilst the developer explored other locations.
Annie Lorys President Newhaven Chamber of Commerce said: “A scheme like this is just what Newhaven needs to accelerate economic development, creating new jobs and investment in its infrastructure.
“Obviously it is important that Round Table are committed to working with both local residents and local businesses so we are pleased to see that there will be a full consultation process before the project goes ahead.”
Round Table Entertainments said it would carry out a feasibility study to assess the viability of the overall scheme and planned to ensure Newhaven residents and local businesses were involved throughout the whole process.
The company hopes to publish the results in October and then hold talks with the community to get their views.
Round Table Entertainments agreed with the district council that it would only proceed with the scheme if backed by the local community.
The spokesperson added: “Cllr [James] Page [leader of the district council] has been very clear to us that this scheme must be fully consulted on which we fully support.
“He wants to work with us to see if these ideas can be developed, deliver real economic benefits for Newhaven and meet with your approval. He recognises that the proposals are ambitious, but he is ambitious for Newhaven.
“We want to also state categorically that the development of the recreation ground is not part of our plans. It is the land adjoining it that is the site for the hotel and we have not yet identified a site for the water park. As soon as we do we will let you know.”
The district council has sold the Robinson Road site to secure the feasibility study and potential investment in Newhaven. If the feasibility study gives a negative result or the Newhaven residents do not support the proposals then all the land will be returned to the district. The water park would be 1.5 times the size of the largest in the world.