JO BLOGS - WATER PARK TEAM CHANGES
April 13 2013.
Lewes Road Rec protest coordinator Jo Pettitt digs deeper into the on-going Newhaven Water Park saga and finds that some faces have changed...
Spring has sprung, (well, the daffodils are out), and there's still no sign of a Water Park information centre in Newhaven town centre. There have been significant changes in the structure of the business behind the Water Park proposal though, which probably accounts, at least in some part, for the lack of progress.
The status of 'Round Table Entertainments' (RTE), the developer behind the Water Park Proposal has been in question for some time. Headed by managing director Dominic Howson, the company's initially dynamic attempts at public engagement in the form of a 'soft launch' coupled with an extraordinarily ambitious timescale seemed to be losing momentum. Cancelled meetings were not rescheduled, there was a mystifying silence on the RTE Facebook page and bizarre rumours were circulating that quibbles over a small amount of electrical work, and even the presence of asbestos, were stalling its occupancy of the shop in town - Bearing in mind RTE reportedly has a £350 million investor and plan to build on an historical tip site... This left many wondering if all was well.
Consequently, I contacted the Leader of Lewes District Council, Cllr. James Page to enquire about the health of RTE and the general status of the Water Park proposal. Although reticent about the timescale of the public consultation process, he did respond with the following: "We have been advised by Kuwaiti European Holding Company that they and Round Table Entertainments are still engaged as principals in the project. They have further advised that certain internal organisational changes have taken place, but these do not impact on those principals involved in the project." He advised me to contact Fenlon Dunphy of 'Oldstone Consultants Limited' for further information.
Fenlon Dunphy is a new name in the Water Park story and a telephone conversation with him yesterday afternoon was revealing. He told me that Dominic Howson's company, 'KEH Developments' has been dropped by the Kuwaiti investors (KEHC) and that his, (Fenlon's), company, 'Oldstone Consultants' has taken over from KEH Developments, (Dominic's company), as the UK representation of KEHC, (the Kuwaiti investors). He confirmed that Round Table Entertainments still exists as a subsidiary of KEHC, but that Dominic Howson and Mike Cogswell are no longer involved in the project.
Fenlon explained that his company, Oldstone Consultants, has undertaken a number of projects as part of KEHC's UK property development portfolio. With regard to the Water Park, he told me that he is in the initial stages of talking to suppliers, advisors and Council representatives about the Water Park proposals. However, at just three weeks in post, he was understandably reluctant to comment on timescale or the promised 'information shop' in town.
I'm left with the impression that everything Dominic Howson enthused in regard to the Water Park plans and public consultation process should now be viewed through a different lens. We can only wait and see what Fenlon Dunphy will bring to the project and I'd imagine there'll be a press release soon if there's a radical change to the published consultation timescale. Maybe the 'Information Centre' will still open in 'Spring 2013' as RTE indicated in February? There's still a lot of Spring left; maybe something's being planned to coincide with the ESCC elections? Who knows?
On the 19th of March, East Sussex County Council agreed to transfer the 47 acre 'Riverside Park' site, (next to the area sold in July 2012 by LDC), to KEHC, subject to a number of stringent conditions. One of which is that if the project doesn't proceed in a timely fashion, the land returns for the use of the public. As this site is seemingly vital to the Water Park development, the only thing we can perhaps be sure on at present is that those now holding the reins need to get their skates on.