Plans for a Robin Hood theme park at Sherwood Forest have been dealt a ‘hammer-blow’ after developers failed to find funding.
The ambitious £13 million visitor attraction was meant to open next spring, but Notts County Council said it was no longer working with tourism experts Discovery Attractions, who had drawn up initial plans.
The authority said it was still ‘fully committed’ to having a new visitor centre up and running at Sherwood Forest no later than 2017 ‘in order to do justice to the legend of Robin Hood’.
Meanwhile, Discovery Attractions has pledged that the Discover Robin Hood visitor attraction will happen - without the council.
Notts County Council claimed Discovery had not managed to secure enough funding for the project.
But Discovery insist the investment will be ‘forthcoming in the near future.’
A spokesman said: “Discovery Attractions are bitterly disappointed that Nottinghamshire County Council have decided to terminate their partnership with the company at this stage but we fully respect their decision. We would also like to thank the council for its tremendous support throughout the whole process.”
“We still passionately believe in the Discover Robin Hood concept. Furthermore we are convinced it is eminently fundable and that this investment will be forthcoming in the near future.”
“Our negotiations with the funder we introduced to NCC in March are still ongoing and we believe our plans will come to fruition, albeit unfortunately not in partnership with NCC.”
Discovery said it had a total of £60 million funding pledged from overseas and UK investors.
“This information was relayed to Nottinghamshire County Council in March 2014 in absolute good faith,” said the company.
“Since March, the negotiations with the investor have continued and Discovery Attractions are still confident that their vision of developing a world class visitor attraction based on the life and times of Robin Hood will still become a reality.”
Notts County Council explained that despite having had firm assurances from Discovery in March that full funding had been secured, the council did not get the detailed information needed to be able to confirm this position.
Coun John Peck said the news was a ‘hammer-blow’ to the area following the announcement of job losses at Thoresby Colliery.
He said: “Discovery were given an extended deadline to come up with the finance. You can only go on so long extending deadlines.
“I am afraid it looks as though the deal is dead in the water. They have had a good couple of years to arrange the finance. They were looking at hedge funds and venture capital.
“From a local point of view I am extremely disappointed. I thought they had a very good offer and what they were proposing was very exciting and could have brought quite a few jobs to the area.
“I know the county council is committed to a new visitors centre by 2017 and I am absolutely sure they will come up with a plan B.
“The council must explore other options. It may involve private investment or some other scheme.
“Whatever is put in place can’t come soon enough. It needs to reflect the international importance of Robin Hood.
“We can’t penny pinch on this. It has got to be something that attracts visitors and that last for another 40 years.”
A county council spokesman said: “The focus now has to be on upgrading the visitor centre.”
“We are relocating the centre and returning the land to nature.”
The new visitor centre will be relocated to land already acquired by Notts County Council, opposite the existing nature reserve and visitor centre.
Notts County Council service director Derek Higton said: “We are absolutely committed to establishing a high quality visitor centre at Sherwood Forest and I’m sure that local people will be as disappointed with this turn of events as we are.”
“We have worked hard to support Discovery Attractions every step of the way to deliver this project.”
“Due to them not being able to find the finances needed, and in view of the time we have given them since they were selected, it is in the best interests of the council and Sherwood Forest that we move on to realise our vision of an engaging and modern visitor offer.”
Now the council is looking for a new partner to redevelop the visitor centre and will begin its search later this summer.
Said Mr Higton: “The most important thing is to ensure we get the right partner in place.”
“We are excited about looking for a new partner, and we intend to go back to the market later this summer to explore new ways of delivering a replacement visitor centre.”