Kent’s rental property shortage leads theme park developers to get creative

Friday July 23 2021

The developers of the £3.5bn London Resort theme park, currently in the planning phase, are giving ‘serious consideration’ to housing contractors on cruise ships moored on the Thames.

The fact that this novel idea is being given credence is reflective of the southeast’s housing shortage. There simply aren’t enough rental properties available to provide accommodation to the 2,000 trade workers required for a project of this magnitude. Therefore – should the project go ahead – it seems some kind of innovative solution will have to be found.

Trade unions are questioning whether cruise ships are the answer, however.

While living on the river might sound like a pleasant idea, unions warn that the ships could become ‘floating prisons’ to the various builders, carpenters, electricians and engineers that they would house.

Jerry Swain, Unite’s national officer for construction, said, “it is essential that the cruise ships don’t in reality become an expensive prison.

“At the moment, due to Covid-19, there is a huge surplus of cruise ships but, when that market recovers, it would be immoral to force workers into clapped-out hulks.”

He added that would be essential for workers to “leave the ship and visit the local community” should the idea come to fruition.

During the development of Hinkley Point C in Somerset, some 500 construction workers were stationed in a 500-bed onsite campus.

The project’s rural location meant that workers’ accommodation was in similarly short supply and thus purpose-built accommodation was deemed necessary. However, a 2019 newspaper article reported that isolation at the site resulted in poor mental health conditions for many of the contractors that were stationed there.

Plans for the London Resort theme park place the site in Kent, on the bank of the Thames. Cruise ships would be moored across the river near Tilbury, Essex, and developers say that they have received “several approaches” from ferry companies looking to sell or lease their vessels.

If the planning application is granted, work on the site will commence in 2022. However, the project remains in the balance with significant local opposition being voiced in regards to the proposals.