Opinion divided in Newhaven over proposals to build world’s largest covered water park

Hillcrest Centre, Newhaven. Waterpark exhibition consultation.
Hillcrest Centre, Newhaven. Waterpark exhibition consultation.
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Residents said they were left with many unanswered questions after attending the public exhibition about the Newhaven water park.

Amongst the questions they wanted answers to were: where will it be, what will it look like and how will Newhaven’s overstretched transport infrastructure cope with the increased traffic?

Many residents at the exhibition were not in favour of the scheme, putting forward arguments that it would cause congestion and that there were better ways to regenerate the town, rather than changing it beyond all recognition.

However others cautiously welcomed the idea of a water park, arguing it would attract visitors to Newhaven and create jobs.

But they pointed out the devil was in the detail and that more in depth plans needed to be seen before they could come down firmly in favour of it.

Residents were also quick to point out that Newhaven was a town which had been lumbered with developments it did not want, such as the incinerator, in the face of massive public opposition.

They said their trust was low because East Sussex County Council had allowed the incinerator to go ahead, creating what many residents view as an eyesore.

Exhibition organisers Round Table Entertainments said the two day event, held on Tuesday October 30 and Wednesday October 31 was designed as a listening exercise, so people could tell them what they wanted to see at the water park, which if it goes ahead will be the largest covered water park in the world.

At this stage the developers have said the hotel will be built on the site of the old tip in Lewes Road.

As yet no details have been released about where theme park will be exactly, although Round Table said it was looking at six different sites.

A formal public consultation will run from January-July 2013. Proposed outline plans will be released during this period and detailed proposals at the end of it, with a view to starting work in 2014.

The scheme will create 650 jobs directly, 3,000 associated supply jobs and 2,500 construction jobs. If no development takes place before 2016 Lewes Road Rec must be sold back to the council.

The Sussex Express spoke to residents at the public exhibition on Tuesday to see what they thought about the scheme.

Newhaven Mayor Graham Amy said: “I think it is good the developers are taking on board the thoughts of the residents of Newhaven.

“I think it could be the catalyst for improving living standards for many people within Newhaven. It’s going to create a lot of jobs.”

Cllr Rob Blackman, who is Lewes District Council’s cabinet member for business, economic development and tourism, was at the launch.

He said: “I think this is the most exciting thing that has happened in the Sussex area for a very long time.

“Given that there are ten million visitors to Brighton and four or five million visitors to Eastbourne every year, if you can pull some of these people in our direction, they will spend money at the water park and on other things as well.”

He also pointed out it would generate section 106 money, which could provide funding for more regenation projects in Newhaven.

Deanna Humprhries, Valley Close, said: “I expected to come here and see plans and there aren’t any.

“I think it will be an eysore. I think it is taking away a recreation area when they could make something of that.

“There won’t be anything in the Valley area for bigger children.

“The traffic goes back beyond Piddinghoe some days.”

And her Mum Carol Bagwell, 68, from Valley Road, said: “From about 4pm onwards you can’t cross the Lewes Road and in the mornings.

“I think in principle it’s a good idea but it is the wrong location.

She called for the district council to regenerate the town, saying she had moved away 20 years ago but decided to return. Now she says she wished she hadn’t.

“We have only got one bank left in the town centre.

“We have to go four miles to get to the nearest bank.

“I just think it’s sad that it’s been allowed to go into decline.

“I still had memories of how it used to be. But there’s now there’s the ring road and the shops have closed down.”

Janet Parsons, 53, Beresford Road,said: “I think it’s a good idea. We need something here – all we get is rubbish.”

Gary Middleton, 56, said: “It’s too big. There are lots of better projects that we could invest money in.

“You look at Thorpe Park and all the main areas [where they have theme parks] no one goes and stays.

“You travel there. You spend the day there and you leave.”

Stuart Gilman, from Mayfield Avenue, Peacehaven, said: “There is no detail at all? How on earth are you supposed to form an opinion when you have no idea where it will be and how big it will be?”

He added that he would be prepared to support the idea of water park in principle.

“I would support it. I can’t think of anyone who has got kids who wouldn’t want a water park,” he said.

He added: “We didn’t want the incinerator, we didn’t want the houses round the back of Peacehaven and the bus lane into Brighton,

“We wanted the West Beach open and we didn’t get that.

“I just have the experience of being let down living here.”

Managing director of Round Table Entertainments Dominic Howson said: “I think it has been going very well.

“We have had a lot of positive feedback and a lot of ideas for extra things to put in the water park.

“We have had some people who have had a lot of concerns but it is about us getting more information.

“We want to know what people want out of this development.

“We are still in the masterplanning stage. We didn’t want to tell them what they will have in the town.

“We want them to ask them what they want.”