Project Horizon Development

Code Name:
Project Horizon
The Towers

Plans & Concepts

In September 2022, Alton Towers made a surprise announcement, revealing their intention to build a new indoor attraction, to replace the park's current service yard in the backstage area between The World of David Walliams and The Alton Towers Dungeons. In an unusual move, local residents were the first to know about the plans when they were invited to a consultation on the proposed new building, which is to be built in a rather controversial area of the park.

Following the consultations, Planning Permission was submitted in early October 2022. The plans were passed by the Planning Committee in February 2023, with permission approved with conditions in June 2023.

What do they have permission for?

Unusually for Alton Towers, the permission granted is not for the attraction itself, but rather the building the attraction will be built in, giving Merlin some flexibility in what attraction goes inside. That said the permission does stipulate that the building must be used for an attraction, so cannot be repurposed for another reason. 

Specifically the building will be approximately 71m in length, 51m wide and 20m in height, including 3,523 sqm of floorspace. The building will be in a similar style to a warehouse and clad with dark green panels to help it blend into the surrounding woodland. The entrance to the building from the theme park will be through a smaller extension to the east of the main building, measuring approximately 40m in length, 9m in width and 14m in height. The entrance will sit below a themed feature, which has yet to be finalised.

The permission came with 25 conditions, most of which were variations on fairly standard planning conditions, but a few were very specific to the development at hand. Some of the more notable conditions included:

  • A bat roost was identified in a disused vending cart in the middle of the site. Bats are a protected species, and so before any site clearance work could begin, this roost would have to be moved off site to a nearby spot where it would not be disturbed.
  • Before the new attraction can be used, detailed plans for the Lighting and Sound for the development will need to be approved by the planning authority. This is to minimise disruption to any nearby properties, such as those across the valley in Alton Village.
  • A specific condition of the approval states that the landscaping plans, included as part of the application, must be enacted before the end of the first closed season after the development is complete and must then be maintained as per the plans for five years. This will not only mean the park is tied to the planting scheme specified, but it will also limit any further development in the area after the new attraction has opened.
  • In the future, when the attraction within the building permanently ceases operation, the entire development (including the building) will be removed within six months, in order to limit the long term impact on the neighbouring heritage assets. This is a somewhat unusual condition, but it is believed that Hex also has a similar condition, which means the buildings cannot be used other than for theme park attractions.
  • Before the new attraction can be used for the first time, a Management Plan for the Orangery (Quarry Greenhouse), which is located in the gardens, must be submitted and approved by the Local Planning Authority. It is not unusual for larger additions to Alton Towers to have this type of condition, which links the development of new attractions with preservation of the past. In this case, the Management Plan will include detail of urgent works and an initial phase of repair to the Orangery along with the long term management plan.

The Plans

Project Horizon - Demolition Plan
Project Horizon Plan Overview
Project Horizon Elevations

Site History

Whilst the new ride is located in what is currently one of the park's service yards, it was actually part of the park itself until 1992.

The area was nicknamed Coaster Corner due to being home to three coasters, which had been added in an area that had formerly been a coach park.  Project Horizon does not fill the entire Coaster Corner, but is mainly located on the site of the Alton Beast and the neighbouring plaza. The new building will also cover a small part of the Alton Mouse site, but the majority of this footprint will remain part of backstage. The third coaster that was once in this area was the Four Man Bob but its former site is now part of the neighbouring Merlin Magic Making compound and not part of the Project Horizon development.

Coaster Corner - with the expected site outlined
The Project Horizon entrance plaza and queue line will be constructed within the former site of Adventureland 4-11, the park's original kids area, which was located beyond the fence behind Flavio's Fabulous Fandango.

The Project Horizon site is also bounded by the underground remains of the Bunbury Hillfort scheduled monument, and around 65m away from the listed Flag Tower, which has been largely inaccessible to the public since Coaster Corner was closed in 1991.


Whilst the planning documents have given lots of clues about what sort of attraction the park might be intending to build, the documents do not contain details of what ride will be contained inside the building that Alton Towers have permission to build.

Queue a lot of speculation about what the park are planning. And whilst we might not know much about the attraction itself, there are several clues we can find in the documents that have been submitted.

What is the attraction?

It was not necessary for Alton Towers to reveal much about the new attraction in order to get planning permission. So in truth, at this point nobody outside the design team knows what Project Horizon will be. There are, however some details to be found scattered through the documents.

The biggest clue as to what we can expect comes in the Transport Statement that is included in the Planning Application. Whilst most of the documents refer to the addition of a new indoor attraction, the Transport Statement talks about 'the introduction of a new rollercoaster', which would strongly suggest that the building will indeed contain a coaster. This would make sense, as it has now been six years since the park's last coaster installation. But even if it is a coaster, there's no mention of what type of coaster we can expect.

With a £12.5m budget, Project Horizon is a similar size investment to Rita - Queen of Speed, which had a slightly larger budget then this addition, once adjusted for inflation. If the new attraction is a coaster, we could therefore expect an addition on a similar scale (a 500-600ish metre ride with two trains, depending on manufacturer and ride type). It has to be remembered though that whilst the budget may be similar, Project Horizon comes with the additional cost of the building the attraction will reside in, and Rita was added with almost no theming, so these costs must be factored in.

The one thing we do know for sure, however, is the maximum dimensions of the building - l71m x w51m x h20m, which will be the major limit on the types of attraction that could be installed inside.

Of course, given that the planning permission is only for the building, it is possible that Merlin haven't actually decided exactly what attraction they want to build yet. So long as the new building follows the plans as submitted and the new attraction meets the specifications described in the documents, it would seem that the park would be able to make alterations to the attraction itself right up until they are ready to start construction.

Needless to say, speculation is rife about what the park might add in the mystery building. For way more discussion about what attraction type Project Horizon might be, there is a dedicated Project Horizon topic to discuss the possibility in the Towers Street Forums.

What theme will the new ride have?

The planning documents give no indication as to what theme will accompany the new ride.

Whilst it will effectively neighbour the Alton Towers Dungeon and The World of David Walliams, it is unlikely to pick up either of these themes. Most notably, the entrance to the new ride is specifically located outside The World of David Walliams.

Is the project a Secret Weapon?

Yes, and no. 

It is widely believed that Project Horizon is the next major addition to the park, following on from Wicker Man, which had the project name of Secret Weapon 8 (or SW8 for short). It seems, however, that Alton Towers have stopped using the Secret Weapon naming convention that they have used for their major projects for many years.

It therefore seems that the project, which would otherwise have been known as SW9, has instead adopted Merlin Magic Making's alphabetic project naming convention. Following the alphabet, this is Merlin's Project H, and had therefore been given the name Horizon.

Is the project delayed?

The Noise Assessment Report, submitted as part of the planning application, states that "It is understood that the construction works for the development of the proposed attraction will commence in Spring 2023, lasting for approximately 78 weeks." Given this report was completed just one week before the planning application was submitted, it would seem that the original plan was that ride would start construction in 2023 and therefore open in 2025.

As of the start of 2024, construction has yet to begin, so it now seems that 2026 is the earliest we can expect Project Horizon to be completed.


There has been no construction yet, and site clearance had not begun as of February 2024. A few trees have been removed over the course of 2023 but notably these are trees that would benefit the park operationally for other reasons.

One of the conditions of the planning permission stated that a bat roost located in the centre of the site had to be moved before site clearance could begin. The bat roost was located in a portable vending cart that had previously been Landlubber's Loot, opposite the Battle Galleons in Mutiny Bay, which was removed in 2016. Luckily this unit was on wheels and so over Winter 2023, the unit was moved onto the former site of the Alton Mouse, outside the Project Horizon construction site.

Theoretically this means that construction could now begin at any time...