HomeTop StoriesUniversal Studios is exploring building a new theme park

Universal Studios is exploring building a new theme park

A new Universal theme park may be coming to Britain and the entertainment and attractions giant is asking the Brits for their input.

Last year, Universal purchased a 476-acre parcel outside Bedford, England, about 60 miles north of London, to explore the possibility of building a new theme park and resort. It would not only be the first Universal theme park in Britain, but also the first in the whole of Europe.

The company says it has been exploring the feasibility of such a project in recent months and discussing it with local and national stakeholders.

This photo shows proposed 'zones' that could form a possible Universal Studios theme park in the UK.  (Universal)

This photo shows proposed ‘zones’ that could form a possible Universal Studios theme park in the UK. (Universal)

While the project remains just an idea at this point, Universal is now asking the public to share their thoughts on how a potential park could impact their lives and how the company can best honor and celebrate the region in a respectful way.

“We have begun a public engagement period on our potential theme park and resort experience in Bedford,” a spokesperson for Universal Destinations & Experiences told Nexstar. “This represents the next step in our ongoing due diligence and feasibility work and is an opportunity for us to consider our plans early and receive feedback.”

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The park would be built south of Bedford on 700 acres of land, including the 476 acres purchased last year and a smaller parcel that Universal has the option to acquire.

The company said the area is already zoned for development and has the flat topography that a large-scale theme park resort needs.

The location offers easy access to a fast passenger rail line with links to London and London Luton Airport, and a new regional rail project currently under construction that will connect Cambridge to Oxford could also provide additional rail services.

The Bedford region has a rich history of workers, Universal says, and was once the main supplier of bricks to the UK construction industry. While these brick factories were demolished decades ago, the industry left an indelible mark on those who called the region home and continue to do so to this day.

Universal says it is interested in incorporating some of the stones still on site into some of the potential buildings and designs and even incorporating other aspects of the city’s history into food and beverage options or future attractions.

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For Universal, England is a logical place to develop a park and increase its influence. The company says 38 million British residents traveled to its theme parks around the world in the past year, spending as much as £34 billion ($42.3 billion) annually.

The United Kingdom is a particularly attractive market for Universal due to its strong tourism and transport infrastructure that connects seamlessly with the rest of Europe. Comcast, Universal’s parent company, already has a strong presence in the country, and NBCUniversal and Sky are both headquartered there.

Universal says a new park in the UK would be mutually beneficial for the company and its residents, highlighting its potential to create thousands of jobs and increase tourism across the region.

Universal's Phase 1 Masterplan and Indicative Masterplan for the proposed new theme park in Bedford, England.  (Universal)Universal's Phase 1 Masterplan and Indicative Masterplan for the proposed new theme park in Bedford, England.  (Universal)

Universal’s Phase 1 Masterplan and Indicative Masterplan for the proposed new theme park in Bedford, England. (Universal)

Any construction, Universal says, would be done with careful attention to local wildlife and ecology, with landscaping and dedicated green space a core component of all future plans. Comcast has previously pledged to become carbon neutral by 2035 and says its theme parks play a big role in those goals.

There would also be significant investments in local infrastructure, including the construction of at least one new train station and dedicated spur roads that could accommodate the majority of the park’s traffic, according to documents posted on Universal’s official website for the project .

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Locals are being asked to take part in a short survey to provide feedback on the proposal, whether they want to show support or opposition or provide input on how it could be improved.

“While it will be some time before we decide whether or not to proceed, we look forward to engaging further with the community about this potential development,” the spokesperson said.

If there is enough public support, and if Universal decides that building a new park would be a smart financial move, construction could take between five and six years. By building a park in historic Bedford, Universal would also become permanent tenants of the region and write a new chapter in the city’s history.

“If the project progresses, we will become long-term members of the local community and look forward to a future partnership,” according to an information pack posted online.

Community members can comment by completing the survey online, contacting us by phone or email, or requesting and mailing a paper copy.

Comments are due by May 3.

All future updates will be posted online on Universal’s dedicated project website, the company says.

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