PRESS RELEASE 23 June 2004: For Immediate Release
Save Dreamland Campaign to appear at Dreamland Inquiry on 29 June
The Save Dreamland Campaign will be giving evidence at a Public Inquiry next Tuesday (29 June 2004) which could decide the fate of Margate’s famous Dreamland Pleasure Park. Dreamland is home to the UK’s oldest roller coaster; the Grade II listed Scenic Railway. In January 2003 Dreamland’s owner announced that the park was to close, but it was reprieved for the 2003 season. It has recently been announced that there will be another temporary reprieve for the park for the 2004 season when it reopens on 3 July (the same day that Dreamland and its Scenic Railway originally opened back in 1920).
At the Inquiry, Campaign Leader Nick Laister will be giving evidence on behalf of the Save Dreamland Campaign, who will be represented at the Inquiry by Susan Marsh MBE, who has over 25 years experience as a volunteer representing community interests at public inquiries. The Public Local Inquiry into the Thanet Local Plan opened in April 2004 and will be devoting most of 29 June to discussing the future of the Dreamland site. The Council’s policy on Dreamland attracted the largest number of objections of any part of the Revised Local Plan in last year’s public consultation.
Campaign Leader Nick Laister says:
“This Inquiry is of critical importance to Margate as it could well decide the fate of Dreamland. Until January 2003, Thanet District Council was committed to retaining Dreamland but, following a meeting with the site’s owner early last year, they changed the Local Plan to allow Dreamland to be completely redeveloped. The Save Dreamland Campaign objected to this U-turn, and now we will get the chance to be heard by an independent, Government-appointed inspector. If we can get the policy changed to how it was before January last year, then Dreamland can almost certainly be saved.”
Laister submitted his Proof of Evidence to the Inquiry in April. The Proof explains how the Council had changed the Dreamland policy in the Local Plan because they believed that the park was no longer viable. But, as Susan Marsh explains, the Campaign has now proved the Council wrong:
“We have a letter from the Council stating that the only reason they changed the policy is because they believed that Dreamland is no longer viable. We are working with several established amusement park operators who would like to acquire the site and invest millions of pounds in new rides and attractions. But all offers to acquire the site have so far been refused. It is our opinion that the offers have been refused as a result of the Local Plan policy being changed and allowing for other forms of development that may attract higher land values. But if the Local Plan is changed back to the way it was previously, clearly stating that Dreamland must remain as an important asset to the town, then it cannot be redeveloped. That is the best outcome for the town and its millions of visitors.”
One of the operators that have made a bid for the site is Southend’s Adventure Island, one of the UK’s most popular theme parks. Its owner, Philip Miller, wants to turn Dreamland into a major regional amusement park destination. The park would be centred on the historic Grade II listed Scenic Railway roller coaster, which would be fully restored to its former glory, and big new rides would also be added to take the park into the 21st Century. But Miller has told the Campaign that tourist attractions cannot compete with the higher values that retail, residential and commercial leisure development can attract, and the original Local Plan policy must therefore be reinstated. This is exactly the same message that the Campaign has had from the other interested operators.
Nick Laister is confident that the Campaign can win:
“There seems to be very little support for the Council’s position amongst residents and local businesses. They have all seen the disastrous season that Margate has experienced so far this year, its first without Dreamland since the Second World War. So far, the Council has not come forward with any realistic proposals to replace Dreamland, despite having commissioned consultants over a year ago. Yet amusement park operators are queuing up to take it over. By weakening the Local Plan, the Council is effectively preventing millions of pounds from being invested in the town by major tourism operators. We are confident that the Inspector will agree with us. Margate cannot afford to lose this important asset.”
To find out more about the Save Dreamland Campaign visit the campaign’s website at www.savedreamland.co.uk. Nick Laister’s Proof of Evidence to the Public Inquiry can be downloaded from the website.
Information for Editors
The Save Dreamland Campaign was launched in 2003 to save the Dreamland Pleasure Park, Margate, home of the UK’s oldest roller coaster, the 84-year-old listed Scenic Railway. Dreamland’s owner proposes to replace the park with a supermarket, shops and casino. The Campaign is lead by planning expert Nick Laister, a leading authority on amusement parks, planning consultant and editor of www.joylandbooks.com, the specialist amusement park bookstore. The Campaign is now speaking on behalf of 13,000 people, including local residents, businesses and organisations such as the Margate Historical Society, Margate Civic Society, the Margate Hotel and Guest House Association, European Coaster Club, Roller Coaster Club of Great Britain and SAVE Britain’s Heritage.
The official campaign website is www.savedreamland.co.uk. The campaign can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org. The address for all correspondence is Save Dreamland Campaign, The Shell Grotto, Grotto Hill, Margate, Kent CT9 2BU.
The Public Inquiry into the Thanet Local Plan opened on 14 April 2004. Two Inspectors (Mr Harold Stephens and Mr Nicholas Hammans) have been appointed to conduct the Inquiry. The future of Dreamland is being considered on 29 June 2004 at 10am at the Council Offices, Margate. It is open to the public to view.
Nick Laister BA (Hons) DipTP MRTPI MIHT MIPI is a leading authority on UK amusement parks and editor of the web site www.joylandbooks.com. He is a Chartered Town Planner and Technical Director with the RPS Group plc, the UK’s largest planning consultancy, where he specialises in planning for tourism and leisure. He has been involved in bringing forward numerous major developments across the UK, and has appeared as expert witness at several public inquiries and hearings. He has written articles for a number of newspapers and journals and has been invited to speak at conferences on the subject of planning for tourism and leisure. email@example.com.
Susan Marsh MBE lives in Greater Manchester, but has a long family connection with Margate. Susan first became involved in planning matters in the mid 1970s, campaigning to maintain open land for the benefit of the community. She has appeared at a number of public inquiries into local plans, land classification, planning applications and transport matters; variously in support of, and opposition to, her local planning authority. She is actively involved in education, race equality and community development. Susan undertakes all these activities as a volunteer and, in 2002, she was awarded an MBE for services to the community. .
Dreamland Pleasure Park is located at Belgrave Road, Margate. The telephone number is 01843 227011.
Nick Laister’s Proof of Evidence can be downloaded in full from www.savedreamland.co.uk.