Home » The UK’s History Of Canceled Theme Parks: How Universal & Disney Almost Came To England!

    The UK’s History Of Canceled Theme Parks: How Universal & Disney Almost Came To England!

    Disneyland Paris EuroDisney Castle Construction

    Alton Towers, Thorpe Park, and Drayton Manor are just a few of the United Kingdom’s most beloved theme parks, however, despite their presence, the UK has struggled to shake its reputation surrounding a history of failed theme park developments. 

    Tending to an ever-present desire for a US-style theme park experience, UK theme park fans have historically embraced the hype surrounding various new theme park announcements, only for these plans to be buried and the parks never to see the light of day. 

    Across the years, the UK (although mostly England) has been considered for a number of exciting theme park projects, each one varying in which stage of development it would reach. 

    Let’s look at a few projects that failed to get off the ground and the exciting names that could have joined the UK theme park line-up.

    Disneyland Resort Norfolk?

    Disneyland Paris EuroDisney Castle Construction
    Image: Disney

    Park fans today are likely familiar with Disneyland Paris, which opened its doors in 1992 and serves as the Walt Disney Company’s only theme park located in Europe. However, what you may not know is that, at one stage, Disney considered building it in the UK. 

    After setting the standard for global theme parks with Disneyland Anaheim and Walt Disney World in Florida, the Walt Disney Company made plans to expand into Europe and initially had the UK in its sights as a potential location for the next great Disney park. The EuroDisney project scouted a variety of areas within England, as well as Barcelona, Milan, and Frankfurt.

    Disney’s plans for expansion saw them consider English areas such as Norfolk and the Midlands although, ultimately, two main factors would prove somewhat counterintuitive for building a bustling theme park. A lack of flat terrain meant that the UK, unfortunately, lost out on its very own Disney park, with Paris having then proved to be the perfect location for this all-new world-class experience. 

    Universal Studios London

    Universal Studios Florida 1990s Promotional Banner
    Image: Universal

    First proposed in 1988 before Universal Studios Florida had even opened its doors, Universal had plans to bring the magic of the movies over to the UK. Universal City was the proposed £1 billion project that would seek to turn an area of marshland in Rainham, Essex into an entertainment complex and theme park like no other. 

    With Steven Spielberg even expected to aid in its development, plans were approved by the UK government who appeared incredibly eager to get the ball rolling. Universal was offered various financial incentives and the government even opted to forgo a public inquiry in order to convince them to choose Essex over another potential location in France.

    However, shortly after plans were proposed, the marshland area would prove problematic for theme park construction. Given the nature of the land, conservationists opposed the park’s development which, compounded with a handful of other logistical and economic elements, was enough to put these plans on hold before they were later scrapped entirely. Leaving Universal Studios London to become another forgotten UK theme park concept. 

    The London Resort

    The London Resort Proposed Theme Park In Rainham, Essex
    Image: The London Resort

    Dubbed by the media as the “UK Disneyland” but with no actual affiliation with the Walt Disney Company, The London Resort is the UK’s most recent attempt at creating a fully-fledged US-style theme park. 

    The project was first announced in 2012 and proposed the total transformation of a 535-acre area in Swamscombe, Kent. If completed, The London Resort would stand as one of the biggest theme parks in Europe and was proposed to feature six themed lands. 

    Initially slated to open in 2024, The London Resort has seen a number of issues crop up along its development process and much like Universal’s previous attempts (albeit in a different location) plans for The London Resort have been met with fierce opposition from conservationists. 

    More recently, a rare species of bee was even found within the proposed construction area, causing more chaos and sparking further opposition toward the development of this area. 

    Following a process that has so far been marred with issues, plans for The London Resort were officially withdrawn in 2022, although they are expected to be re-submitted at some point this year. However, given the UK’s long-running history of canceled projects, for many, the anticipation surrounding The London Resort is low. 

    Both residents and tourists alike are eager to see a first-class theme park make its way to the UK and The London Resort no doubt offers a very exciting prospect indeed. However, in recent developments it now appears that The London Resort has joined the UK’s growing list of scrapped theme park plans.