In September 2022, Alton Towers Resort held a public exhibition event for emerging proposals to add a new indoor attraction on the former site of Alton Mouse in Coaster Corner, referred to as Project Horizon. The submission of a full planning application followed a few weeks later, although there remain few details about the nature of the attraction itself…
Despite the concerns that were raised, on Thursday 16th February the Staffordshire Moorlands District Council’s (SMDC) Planning Applications Committee voted to approve the application in line with the planning officer’s recommendation, which noted it as being a complex and finely balanced case. The first point in favour was the local and national economic contribution of Alton Towers Resort, and the role of Project Horizon in supporting its continued contribution and popularity, which was considered to carry significant weight. In respect of the heritage impact, the officer’s conclusion was that the public benefit resulting from the proposal was considered to be sufficient to outweigh the identified harm to the nearby heritage assets. This public benefit would also include further heritage works at the Resort, as stipulated by a planning condition. Finally, whilst some harm to local landscape character was identified, it was considered that these impacts could be mitigated through the careful use of materials and a carefully considered landscape plan and woodland management plan.
Following its, the planning application was subject to the usual statutory consultation phase. This required a number of official parties to be consulted on the plans, along with the opportunity for members of the public to comment on the proposals. There were a number of objections registered by local residents arguing that there were inadequacies in the noise assessment undertaken, that the visual impact from the proposed building would be unacceptable given its height and potential external lighting, and they also questioned the claim that no additional traffic would be created by the development. Historic England also provided its response noting that the building would be visible from the wider area and that it had concerns on heritage grounds. It therefore recommended that alternative, less prominent locations were considered for the attraction. SMDC’s own Conservation Officer also expressed similar concerns.
Although the planning application appeared on the planning portal in the first half of October 2022, it wasn’t until the start of November that the application documents were published. The attraction building itself was shown to be located in the western part of the site and be approximately 71m in length, 46m in width and 19.4m in height. The building would comprise a steel portal frame and be clad in nonreflective dark green cladding and sheeting panels, with a hipped roof to the south. A smaller building extending from the eastern elevation of the main building (40m x 10m) was also proposed. A themed feature would be installed on this same elevation, which faces into the theme park and the proposed plaza area. Plans showed this incorporating a large angled arch and it was said to have additional colours and theming. The entrance to the attraction’s queue line would be on the south-western edge of the plaza area. The proposed queue line fencing would be constructed from timber and would, in parts of the site, be elevated slightly above the existing ground level to avoid encroaching on the root protection areas of the existing trees. Three separate queue lines were shown, all entering the building at a section with full height glazing via three doors adjacent to one another. A new entrance portal feature would be located in the eastern part of the site, providing guest access via the land in-between The Alton Towers Dungeon and The World of David Walliams. This feature would be approximately 6m x 1m with height of 5m.
Alongside the public exhibition event, the Resort also submitted a request for a formal screening opinion to Staffordshire Moorlands District Council (SMDC) in respect of the proposed attraction. This was for SMDC to confirm if an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) was required in respect of the proposals, with the Resort’s conclusion being that an EIA was not required. A location plan submitted as part of this application provided the exact boundaries of the proposed development – encompassing an area up to approximately 1 hectare, the site was currently occupied by containers and storage, including waste/recycling facilities. It was stated that the attraction itself would be fully enclosed within a new aluminium warehouse building, with the dimensions of the building given as being up to 75 metres by 57 metres, with a height of up to 20m from ground level.
At the start of September 2022, leaflets were distributed to local residents (thanks to David Ford for the photo) to inform that that a public exhibition would be held on Monday 19th September in respect of emerging proposals to add a new indoor attraction on the former site of Alton Mouse in Coaster Corner. This would require the construction of a new attraction building in the area to the west of The World of David Walliams and The Alton Towers Dungeon. Following the death of HM Queen Elizabeth II, this exhibition was rescheduled for Friday 23rd September. The information shared by the project team indicated that the building would have a 71m x 46m footprint with an 40m x 10m extension on the front-facing (i.e. eastern) side, and that the building would be darker coloured (likely green), with the guest-facing side themed accordingly.
The boards on display at this event were included amongst the documents subsequently submitted as part of the full planning application, and have been included below.