Universal Studios writes to Bedfordshire residents about plans for UK theme park

The Universal Globe at the entrance to Universal Studios in Orlando, Florida Credit: PA

Universal Studios has written to residents about “potential” plans to build its first UK theme park in Bedfordshire

The movie giant behind Harry Potter and Oppenheimer confirmed last week it had bought a massive plot of land near Bedford.

The reported 480-acre site, at Stewartby, is part of a former brickworks which was once the biggest in the world, producing up to 500 million bricks a year.

In a letter to residents, the movie said it is “in the very early stages of exploring the possibility of a potential park and resort experience” at the location.

John McReynolds from the company’s external affairs wrote: “While we do own the land, we are only at the beginning of our feasibility study as part of our evaluation of potential sites.

“It may well therefore be many months before we decide whether to proceed with the project.”

The letter said Universal had “a strong track record of working together with local communities as we consider any new project”.

"Engaging with the local community in Bedford, Kempston Hardwick, Stewartby, Wixams, Wootton, and elsewhere will be no different," he said.

He said Universal had been "encouraged by the positive nature of conversations" with stakeholders, including Bedford Borough Council and the town's mayor.

"We plan to work closely with our local communities should we progress," he said.

Universal Studios has bought a plot of land in Bedfordshire as it looks for a UK theme park site. Credit: Universal Studios

Mr McReynolds wrote of the positive economic impacts a theme park would bring to the area.

There are five Universal resorts across the world, in the United States and Asia. It built a new park in Beijing in 2021 and it plans to complete another in Florida in 2025.

Universal has launched a website to keep Bedfordshire residents updated with the progress of plans.

Mr Reynolds added: "There is still a long way to go, and we may not have any more information to share in the near term."

Could this be the site of a new Universal theme park and resort?

Stewartby brickworks closed in 2008 after more than 100 years. In 1936, while owned by London Brick Company, it was recognised as the largest brickworks in the world and employed 2,000 people.

The studio believes the land at Bedford has potential because of its "excellent transportation connectivity to London and Europe, with more than half of the UK population within two hours".

The site is just half an hour from Luton Airport and is nestled between two railway stations on the Bedford to London line. The M1 is just a few minutes away.

Bedford mayor Tom Wootton welcomed the news last week: “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.” 

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