Tuesday 9 June 2020 4:56 pm

Theme parks set to open before schools

Legoland, Thorpe Park, Alton Towers and Chessington World of Adventures are set to open next month, ahead of schools in England. 

The four theme parks, which are all owned by Merlin Entertainment, plan to open their doors to the public on 4 July after months of closure due to the coronavirus crisis.

Today, the government scrapped its plans to return pupils to the classroom by July, meaning most schools in the country are set to remain shuttered until at least September.

A spokesperson for Merlin told City A.M. plans for the four theme parks to reopen were subject to approval by the government.

Read more: Coronavirus: The pandemic could change the sport and leisure sector for good

Legoland operations director Karen Glassey highlighted that the theme park would enforce drastic changes to ensure public safety.

Extra measures will include “non-invasive temperature checks” at entrance gates, leaving rows empty between families on rides, and requiring visitors to wear a face mask in certain areas. Similar measures will also be required at Alton Towers, Chessington and Thorpe Park. 

All three theme parks are currently open for online bookings. 

Glassey added that a small number of rides and attractions would be closed when Legoland first reopens, but that it plans to open as many as possible throughout the season. 

Merlin is the largest theme park operator in Europe, attracting almost 8m visitors per year across the four UK sites. 

It comes as The London Resort yesterday revealed plans for its new theme park in the capital, in what has been dubbed the “UK’s answer to Disneyland”. The new park, which will occupy 535 acres of land on the Swanscombe Peninsula, is set to open in 2024.

Meanwhile London and Whipsnade Zoos have warned that they face permanent closure if the government’s decision to keep zoos shut is reversed. 

The Zoological Society of London, which runs both attractions, said it did not qualify for emergency government funding, despite upkeep expenses topping £1m per month.

Chester Zoo last week launched a Save our Zoo campaign as it revealed it could be plunged into £24m of debt after being forced to close during lockdown.