Hold on to your hats folks, is this a sign that the UK may be getting a Universal Studios theme park that would be just 40 minutes away from London? Exciting news indeed, if so. BBC has reported that Universal have bought 480 acres of land at a former brickwork site in Bedfordshire as it explores the possibility of building a theme park and resort on the land.
The site, located in Stewartby just 15 minutes from Bedford, would be Universal’s first-ever park in the UK with sites already in Hollywood, Orlando, Japan, Singapore, and Beijing. Universal’s theme parks have themed rides dedicated to films including Fast & Furious, Despicable Me and Jurassic World as well as whole areas dedicated to Super Nintendo and the Wizarding World of Harry Potter designed to immerse visitors, it’ll be pretty exciting to find out which movies could inspire attractions at a potential UK site.
Rumours on expansion into the UK had previously been circulating and registered the domain names of universalstudiosgreatbritain.com and universalgreatbritain.com, as well as .co.uk extensions in September but this move to purchase land has been the furthest plans have gone.
Universal has confirmed that they are still in the “very early” stages of planning, with a spokesperson for the company commenting, “We recently acquired land in Bedford and are at the early stages of exploring its feasibility for a potential park and resort at this site. It will be many months before we are ready to make a decision to proceed and we look forward to engaging with all relevant stakeholders and the local community.”
A Universal theme park would be another major attraction in Southern England, as it will be with the likes of Warner Bros’ Studio Tour London – The Making of Harry Potter in Watford which opened in 2021 and has seen more than 16 million people visiting since it’s been open. Bedford was chosen because of its handy transport links that connect it well with London and Europe, noting its close proximity to Luton Airport.
The site was once home to 167 chimneys used for producing bricks, with the last four chimneys demolished in 2021. It had received planning permission for 1,000 homes to be built but was never followed through after a suitable developer could not be found.
Tom Wootton, the elected mayor of Bedford Borough Council, said: “The suggestion of a major business investment is of course positive, nevertheless these are early days and much detailed work is required before any decisions are made. We very much welcome and are excited by the interest from Universal and the immense potential for it to be transformative for the borough. We’re committed to ensure that any plans align with the best interests of our residents.”