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Universal Studios Theme Park: CPRE Bedfordshire position statement

8th May 2024

In December 2023 it was announced that Universal Destinations and Experiences have bought a 456 acre parcel of land in the Kempston Hardwick / Stewartby area and are investigating the potential to create a new theme park at the site.

A final decision has not yet been made on whether the company will proceed with the project.


About the site

The northern part of the site above Manor Road was part of the former Kempston Hardwick brickworks. It includes extensive water bodies which were created after the end of brick making activity. The southern half of the site, which will be the main location for park attractions and services, consists of agricultural land which is proposed as a location for major housing growth in Bedford Borough Council’s emerging Local Plan 2040.

Map showing the site.

Engaging with the plans

CPRE Bedfordshire attended a briefing from Universal’s project lead alongside other local charities, arranged by Bedford Borough Council (BBC). We also attended a consultation meeting held at Bedford College.

CPRE Bedfordshire appreciates the efforts made by Universal and BBC to engage with local people and stakeholders to provide information about the project and to invite comments at this early stage.

After giving careful consideration to the implications of the proposal, should Universal decide to go ahead, CPRE Bedfordshire submitted comments to the informal consultation, which closed on 3rd May.


Our view

CPRE Bedfordshire takes a balanced view of the project. We see the clear potential benefits to the local area. The one major concern we have about the project is the impact on the Local Plan and the need for BBC to find an alternative location for the 4,000 houses proposed for allocation on this site. We consider this to be a matter for BBC, which we would be keen to discuss with them at the earliest opportunity.


Scale of development

The scale of the development cannot be overestimated, it will have a massive impact both on the immediate area around the site and the wider area of Bedford Borough and Central Bedfordshire, in terms of the environment and local economy.

We recognise that development on this scale is likely to be highly popular and will attract visitors from all over Europe and other parts of the world. Also, that if delivered with due consideration for the environmental impacts and careful stewardship, the park project brings rare opportunities to deliver environmental as well as economic benefits to the site and local area.


Environment and agriculture

In terms of what we have heard from Universal so far, we are encouraged by the aspirations expressed to bring substantial environmental enhancements in terms of a nature rich landscape of lakes and open green space to the former industrial site. In respect of the part of the site in current use as agricultural land, but proposed for future housing growth, the theme park project provides an alternative use that has the potential to provide thousands of new jobs and a major boost to the local economy.

We recognise that Universal have a well-established international reputation for delivering very high quality attractions and CPRE Bedfordshire see no reason to doubt the expressed commitment to develop the whole site with appropriate landscaping to protect the local area from intrusive impacts.



We are reassured that Universal recognise that the provision of required infrastructure in terms of road and rail connections must be given the highest priority. It is clear that the development of improvements to rail services which are already well advanced for the Marston Vale line and the new station at Wixams on the Thameslink line will be very well placed to serve the park.

Universal have stated that there will need to be substantial improvement to both local and national road networks and we support their view that this is an absolute prerequisite for any decision to establish a park in Bedford.


Next steps

CPRE Bedfordshire would welcome the opportunity to remain engaged with the development of the theme park as a local stakeholder and to provide ongoing advice and comment as required.


Image by Fabian from Pixabay