Back in 1992, there were ambitious plans to build a Dan Dare-inspired theme park on Pomona Island, Manchester. The project came to naught, but it at least progressed as far as design stage – and attracted the attention of BBC Newsround.
Paul Welsh reported on the plans, the news item available to view here on YouTube.
The “Space City Pomona” featured in the clip was the work of Fingertip Fabrications.
The news report opens at Pomona Island, then a derelict but much-loved wasteland, today a proposed location for regeneration from developers Peel L&P, who submitted huge plans to transform the area into thousands of homes, shops, offices, leisure facilities and green spaces over the next few years in 2021, with work due to be completed by 2037.
Over on the Dan Dare group on Facebook, Derek Wilson has shared details of a press report, dated 10th December 1992 that suggested preliminary construction work could start early next year on the massive £70 million ‘space city’ theme park.
“Developer ‘Space City’ has applied to Trafford Borough Council for outline planning permission for the scheme and the council is said to favour the project,” the report notes. “This means that construction work could start on the main building contract before the end of 1993.
“Due to open in 1996 the park, situated on the borders of Salford, Trafford Park and Manchester city centre, is scheduled to attract more than a million visitors in its first year. The theme park will be based on the Eagle comic character Dan Dare and will be split into four planets – Red Moon, Atlantis, Mekonta and Interplanetary Space Headquarters – linked by a monorail. Facilities will be built on the lines of Disneyland and include a roller coaster and other rides, a 3-D cinema and a swimming pool.”
The report was accompanied by a press photograph, intriguingly crediting Fleetway for the artwork, then publishers of Eagle comic – although the title’s editor at the time, Barrie Tomlinson, told downthetubes he doesn’t recall the plans.
As of September 2022, the plans to redevelop the 26-acre swathe of land were in limbo, until Peel L&P and Trafford Council reached an accord on the level of affordable housing to be provided on a separate project.
Reporter Paul Welsh is quickly whisked off in a flurry of effects to to talk, off camera, to Space City’s designer, Daniel Gilpin Lister, one of a number of directors of Space City Limited, about the proposed park, its fortunes possibly tied to the proposed Dan Dare feature film of the time, which never materialised.
The private limited company was established in September 1991 and cited the nature of its business as motion picture and video distribution, the development & sell real estate and restaurants. It was dissolved in 1997.
Lister indicates that there were plans to offer training courses to students as part of the project, to identify scientists of the future.
Reporter Paul Welsh, who left the BBC in 2006 and ran Mosquito Media until 2015, is a much-travelled television and radio correspondent and presenter. Born in England in 1961, he moved frequently because his father was a serving member of the RAF. He’s perhaps best known for coverage of conflicts and disasters; particularly the civil wars in Kosovo, Ivory Coast and Liberia, and the famines in Somalia and Sudan. Roles for the BBC included World Affairs Correspondent, West Africa Correspondent, Defence & Security Correspondent, TV Duty Editor, presenter of the World Service programmes Newshour and The World Today, and reporter/presenter on the television programmes BBC Breakfast and BBC Newsround.
The Peel Group, owners of the land today, is controlled by the Billown Trust, which is based in the Isle of Man. The remainder of the Group is owned by the Olayan Group, a private global enterprise comprising 50 companies and affiliated businesses engaged in distribution, manufacturing, services and investment in Saudi Arabia. It operates or actively participates in more than 40 countries, often in partnership with leading multinationals.
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With thanks to “NWK”
The founder of downthetubes, which he established in 1998. John works as a comics and magazine editor, writer, and on promotional work for the Lakes International Comic Art Festival. He is currently editor of Star Trek Explorer, published by Titan – his third tour of duty on the title originally titled Star Trek Magazine.
Working in British comics publishing since the 1980s, his credits include editor of titles such as Doctor Who Magazine, Babylon 5 Magazine, and more. He also edited the comics anthology STRIP Magazine and edited several audio comics for ROK Comics. He has also edited several comic collections, including volumes of “Charley’s War” and “Dan Dare”.
He’s the writer of “Pilgrim: Secrets and Lies” for B7 Comics; “Crucible”, a creator-owned project with 2000AD artist Smuzz; and “Death Duty” and “Skow Dogs” with Dave Hailwood.