In late 2012, an updated Long Term Development Plan (LTDP) was made available online on the Alton Towers Heritage website. The report plans out the future of the Alton Towers Resort until 2019 and its purpose is to inform the Staffordshire Moorlands Council (as well as residents of the surrounding area) what the core strategy for the resort will be over the next few years. Because of this, it contains interesting hints towards areas of development as well as planned future attractions and developments for the theme park and resort.
So, what’s planned?
Four different investment options have been investigated by the Alton Towers Resort which are; no investment, low investment, medium investment or high investment. The Resort chose the medium investment option, based on a number of factors shown in the table below:
Whilst the medium investment option may make less commercial sense than the high investment option, the table shows how it is far more positive in terms of heritage, conservation, traffic and visual intrusion.
The medium investment option aims to increase visitors to the theme park and resort through new car parking, new entertainment areas, new rides and refreshed theming of existing areas. It also suggests an extension to the Alton Towers Hotel alongside log cabins (which are currently going through a planning consultation) and a possible third hotel. This option will be examined in more detail below.
Phase 1: 2010-2014
The plan is split into two phases, the first of which includes some investments which have already taken place. Other suggestions are as follows:
Car Parking & Access: The creation of landscaped parking ‘cells’ on the northern field car parks to conceal the view of car parks from beyond the Resort. This would allow the gradual relocation of the Air car park onto these new areas. This work is likely to commence before 2014 but continue alongside longer-term projects.
New Rides & Entertainment Areas: Areas suggested for development include land to the east of Nemesis, to the east of Air, to the west of Cloud Cuckoo Land and to the east of Duel.
Overnight Accommodation: The strategy encourages the increase of multi-day visitors and families wishing to spend the night. It suggests four initiatives for accommodation: increased use of existing hotels, extending the Alton Towers Hotel, a lodge development and a third hotel. We know that the lodge development is currently going through a planning application.
Heritage Investment: Investment in key areas of the theme park’s heritage. This includes restoration of the garden conservatory, prevention of the Towers ruins collapsing, restoring the gothic prospect tower, maintaining the gardens and refurbishment of the Station Lodge for active use. The plan also suggests a review of projects which can re-use areas of the Towers actively.
Transportation Investment: Continued reduction in arrival and departure peaks on the busiest ‘Peak+’ days on the Resort. The plan also notes that a relief road does not need to be built and transport focus should be on improving existing roads and non-car transport methods such as the staff and guest buses. Transportation plans are likely to be linked to Resort developments over the length of the LTDP.
These points in the short-term aim to increase the admissions to the theme park to around 3 million a year by 2014.
Phase 2: Years 2015-2019
Car Parking & Access: Further implementation of the car parking ‘cells’ and improvements to the entrance on Farley Lane. A new entrance plaza to the east of Duel is also considered so that Towers Street could be redeveloped for other uses.
New Rides & Entertainment Areas: A number of rides are earmarked for removal as they reach the end of their operational lives. These may include: Ripsaw, The Flume and The Blade. Two large attractions are being considered for 2016 and 2019 which would fit with the current theme of installing a major attraction every three years. One of these installations may be a cross-valley ride between Dark Forest and Forbidden Valley whilst the other may be a large-scale dark ride. These two major installations would be alongside up to four replacement medium or large attractions.
The link between the theme park and resort is also planned to be reinforced through the development of a ‘fully integrated resort attraction’ – which may possibly be some sort of entertainments area.
Proposed Changes to Permitted Development Rights: There are areas of Alton Towers where things can be built without planning permission. The LTDP suggests Sonic Spinball’s removal or relocation in order to stop any ride or structure higher than 5m being built on that site.
Other bits: The second phase also includes the possible development of further resort accommodation, continued investment into the Towers ruins and Gardens and investment in the local road and bus network.
By the end of this second phase of the LTDP, in 2019, theme park admissions are estimated to rise to 3.3 million, alongside a rise in overnight stays. Traffic to Alton Towers Resort is not set to rise though.
The LTDP suggests many ways to improve and invest in the resort. The main points are:
- Major ride investments in 2016 and 2019 (possibly being a large dark ride and cross-valley rollercoaster)
- The 2014 lodge development
- Re-locating the entrance between Duel and Nemesis
- Removing older rides such as The Blade, Ripsaw and The Flume
- A possible 3rd hotel or extension to the Alton Towers Hotel
- Re-locating the car park behind Air to the northern fields
- Four medium to large replacement attractions.