BOSSES at a North Yorkshire theme park said it could now compete with the big boys after £5 million expansion plans were approved.

Lightwater Valley, near Ripon, has secured permission from Harrogate Borough Council to build 106 chalets and new sports facilities in the forest area of its existing site.

It said the scheme will safeguard 243 positions at the park, creating about 34 new full-time equivalent positions, and increasing the park’s wage bill by £800,000.

Simon Edward, of Lightwater Valley, said the investment was also expected to create at least 20 jobs outside of Lightwater Valley and boost the Ripon area economy by about £8 million, with visitors spending one or two days at the park, before exploring the region.

“This really does secure the long term future of Lightwater Valley,” said Simon. “What it really means is we can take on the likes of big theme parks like Alton Towers which already have accommodation.”

A larger redevelopment project was rejected in 2008, but work on the revised expansion will start in the autumn and is expected to be completed by spring next year.