Park bosses have been talking about introducing on-site accomodation for many years, with the first plans drawn up as far back as 2006 for a permanent hotel installation. After many false starts and the installation of temporary accomodation to test the market, the Park submitted a detailed proposal to build a permanant on-site overnight offering in 2014, scheduled to open in 2018:
The very first application was submitted on 22nd August 2006 for a 250 room 3-storey hotel complex, complete with bar, restaurant, swimming pool and leisure and conference facilities. The hotel was planned to sit on the old "CEMEX" mineral processing plant, next to where the current coach park is now (to the right of the Park entrance). The plans detailed a new boat shuttle service running from the hotel direct
across the lake to the Park, as well as provision for
a new 375 space car park. It took 3 years from 2006 for the plans to be advanced, with Runnymede granting planning permission on 1st April 2009.
The project was unfortunately further delayed due to the "economic climate" and ongoing discussions relating to the "phasing" of the hotel. The "phasing" option broke the installation into 2, with Phase 1 only seeing 150 rooms built of the original 250. The application was referred back to Runnymede Council on 1st June 2011 in order to confirm the potential phasing of the hotel; this application was passed on 7th June 2011, with further amendments agreed on 2nd November 2011. Ultimately though, ground work even on Phase 1 never begun, due to logistical issues, council/resident concerns, and management desire to stress-test the economics of the new development.
On 17th August 2012, the Park submitted planning applications for a "temporary" overnight solution in the form of the Crash Pad - a joint venture with Snoozebox, who offer the world’s first fully-serviced luxury portable hotels, using modified shipping containers and cabins to create rooms.
The applications stated that "there are some viability concerns about the development of a large traditional hotel at the Park. Thorpe Park is therefore looking for an opportunity to test market conditions in advance of investing in a permanent hotel development". The Park were granted planning permission for 3 years to 2016.
Rooms at The Crash Pad were small, but featured an en-suite shower wet room and toilet, flat screen TV, free Wi-Fi and a safe. A dedicated reception and on-site housekeeping team ensured guests were looked after and ready to take on a second day of stomach-churning rollercoasters, and the addition of The Crash Pad meant a stark increase in the number of evening events that the Park put on. Ministry of Sound club nights, roller discos, gigs and comedy nights all started to feature on the calendar.
The Crash Pad was a success, with high occupancy rates even during off-peak times. The figures were encouraging enough for the Park to decide to "go it alone", and for the following year they severed ties with Snoozebox and built their own version! On 3rd July 2013, the Park applied for planning permission to retain the temporary hotels for a period of 10 years to 2024, but with the accommodation being re-built by the Park itself. The shipping container concept would remain, but more themeing would be added, including a giant metal shark structure over the boardwalk to suit the new name: the Thorpe Shark Hotel. Despite its temporary nature, the entire new temporary installation still required a total investment of £9 million!
2013 Crash Pad development
2014 Thorpe Shark development
On 16th May 2014, Thorpe Park moved on to the detailed design stage of their long-awaited permanent hotel development. Much of the proposal remained the same as the original 2006/2011 plans; 250 rooms, with bar, restaurant, cafe and health club, with a "calm" waterfront theme. Indeed, the applications state that "the waterfront location is the key asset of the hotel".
The phasing also remains in line with previous applications: Phase 1 would comprise of 150 rooms, the bar, restaurant, cafe and part of the health club, as well as the lakeside terrace and car park expansion (248 of the proposed 375 spaces). Phase 2 would see the remaining 100 rooms built through additions to the west wing of the hotel, an extension of the health club towards the car park, and the remaining car park spaces. It's still unknown at this stage as to whether the Park will proceed with building in phases, or complete the development wholesale.
Whilst nothing radically new was presented in the 2014 application, a lot more detail and specifics were included in the applications, which indicates that the Park is serious in making the permanent hotel a reality. A presentation made to a residents' focus group in March 2014 was reported to be warmly received (the exhibits used for this are included in the below images). And for the first time the Park also provided a timeline - groundwork is planned to begin in 2016, with the first guests being welcomed in spring 2018.
It's unknown if the current temporary Thorpe Shark Hotel will continue to operate as a cheaper option when the new development is built, or whether Thorpe will remove the facility before its lease (to 2024) expires.
To view all of the Thorpe Park hotel planning applications, you can find them at Runnymede Borough Council here.