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An ambitious scheme to create the largest indoor water park in the world in Newhaven has been ditched.

The company behind the plan, Kuwaiti European Holdings Company (KEHC), said it had taken the decision because the project was not financially viable.

Lewes Road Recreation Ground, which was controversially sold to the water park developer, will now be returned at no cost to the district council.

Kuwaiti European Holdings spokesperson Fenlon Dunphy said: “Our review has led us to the conclusion that this particular project is not financially viable; whilst we regret withdrawing from this project, we hope that all will understand the decision has been taken for sound commercial reasons.

“We would like to extend our gratitude to the councils involved, county, district and town; for their cooperation and support throughout the process.

“Many will be aware that a piece of land in Newhaven was acquired by KEHC from Lewes District Council (LDC); this land is being returned by KEHC to LDC, at no cost to LDC.”

The district council’s corporate head of communities and enterprise Nilam Popat said the council sold the Lewes Road Recreation Ground to Kuwaiti European Holdings in June 2012 and was paid for the sale and all the legal costs associated with it.

She said the conditions of the sale protected it as an open space and allowed for the developer to offer it back or for the council to ask for it back if the development did not go ahead.

Council leader James Page (Telscombe Cliffs and East Saltdean, Con) said: “I am disappointed that this particular proposal didn’t work out but we haven’t lost anything: Lewes district is still open to big ideas, we’ve put Newhaven on the map and we’ve shown we can work with developers and the community to bring them to fruition.

“Not every project will go ahead so we are the first council in the country, so far as I am aware, to use new powers under the Localism Act to make sure the council’s not out of pocket if things don’t work out.”

Cllr Page said Kuwaiti European Holdings had offered to return the recreation ground to the council at no cost and make a small contribution towards environmental improvements.

Newhaven MP Norman Baker said, “I am not entirely surprised that the proposed water park is to be sunk without trace. It was always a hugely ambitious project which would have required, amongst other things, tens of millions to be spent on transport infrastructure locally to make it work.”