At tonight’s Isle of Wight council Cabinet meeting, as members discussed Dinosaur Isle, a hint was given as to who the major investor might be, when the new attraction might open and how much would be invested.
Leader of the council, Dave Stewart, introduced the item by reminding members that some time ago the council were looking at how best to dispose of Dinosaur Isle or develop it as an asset for the council.
Stewart: “Equivalent of our Disneyland opportunity”
He said the initial proposal had resulted in interest from a “very significant investor” which led to a visit to Portugal and other tender sites by council officers and the lead member.
Here’s what appears to be the only dinosaur park in Portugal.
Cllr Stewart described the project as “the equivalent of our Disneyland opportunity to have a dinosaur park”.
It was revealed later in the meeting that the new dinosaur attraction could be opened by April 2023 – assuming everything goes to plan.
Cllr Hutchison (cabinet member for Resources) suggested the investment would be substantially more than for the build of a secondary school, which typically was around £33,000,000.
Best possible outcome
The cabinet member for regeneration, Cllr Wayne Whittle, said they were trying to achieve the best possible outcome and do not want to inhibit “the most viable commercial proposal to come forward”.
He said reviewing the Invitation to Tender would better secure and sustain the museum collection and museum accreditation in the long term. Cllr Whittle said,
“A review of the scope will ensure the integrity of the process is not put at risk of challenge while providing the best chance of a major new attraction for our Island.”
Scripted questions and answers
What followed were questions from other members of the Cabinet in what appeared to be scripted questions and answers.
Cllr Paul Brading said was disappointed they were not further down the line of getting to preferred bidder status, but understood why and believed the paper would remove the final hurdle. He wanted reassurance the museum’s accreditation would be safeguarded and that all the PLUTO assets and buildings would be fully protected.
Cllr Whittle said they wanted to make it as great an attraction as they can. He said the issues raised are part of the dialogue and that there would be more public consultation in the future.
Cllr Hastings asked how they could ensure the distinct heritage and environment located in the area is protected.
Cllr Whittle told members,
“Everything that is there that has got value to the community is heritage assets will be part of the plan. I think when you talk about PLUTO that is an attraction in itself that would benefit any other attraction. The heritage is always going to be looked after.
“We want to do something that will give that ‘wow factor’ back to the Bay.”
Bidder wants to invest more
Cllr Ward said,
“We have a bidder who has come along and wants to invest more than the original invitation to tender.
“I think that’s a massive positive and I totally agree with the paper, if we have to adjust the process to make sure we are within the procurement rules, so be it.”
“We couldn’t have better apart from an actual Disneyland.”
People filling vacuum with “spurious suggestions”
He asked for more detail about the proposal that is in dialogue. He said there was an information vacuum and “people are trying to fill that with spurious suggestions”.
Cllr Whittle said it would not be appropriate to discuss in advance of the review, but that
“The proposals are extremely ambitious and will put the offer on a different level in terms of national and international significance, going way beyond what we thought possible in the original IIT.”
All cabinet members voted in favour of the recommendation.