News: January 2003
In January 2003 the owner of Dreamland, Jimmy Godden, announced the closure of Dreamland. The park is to be redeveloped as "leisure boxes, some retail and a supermarket". Joyland Books will provide updates on the campaign to save Dreamland and its nationally-important Scenic Railway ride.
Tuesday, 28 January 2002
A meeting is arranged between Roger Gale MP and members of the Save Dreamland Campaign. The meeting is scheduled for 18 February. A full report will be placed on this website.
Save Dreamland Campaign leader Nick Laister speaks to certain key officers at Thanet District Council. Laister said: "It is clear that there is very little support for the redevelopment of Dreamland or the demolition of the Scenic Railway amongst key officers at the Council. They can see that it would be contrary to national and local planning policy, and that it will be against the town's best interests. Unfortunately, many of the council's elected members do not seem to be so well informed. I will continue to lobby the council. I am looking forward to a productive meeting with Roger Gale MP."
Monday, 27 January 2003
The Save Dreamland Campaign issues an open letter to Margate MP Roger Gale. The letter sets out the Campaign's main concerns about the way the Council has so far handled the matter. In particular, the Campaign asks Roger Gale to investigate why one man's retirement can be allowed to bring the tourist industry of an entire town to its knees, especially when the proposals are contrary to national and local planning policy. The full letter, issued to the MP by Sarah Vickery, can be found here. As soon as a reply is received, it will be posted on this page. You can debate the issues raised in the letter in our Forum.
Sunday, 26 January 2003
News of the content of Friday's edition of the Isle of Thanet Gazette reaches the Save Dreamland Campaign. Local MP Roger Gale, previously a strong supporter of retaining a major tourist attraction in Margate, appears to have changed his position following a "useful and constructive exploratory meeting" with Stadium Developments (the company that is proposing to redevelop the Dreamland site). Gale says: "We have to recognise that there is no power that can compel Mr Godden or anyone else to run an amusement park."
He adds: "The right mix of sports, other leisure and retail outlets all under one roof could, if offered by the developer, give us the facilities that the town so desperately needs."
Also in the newspaper is news that the Council proposes a public consultation on future options for the Dreamland site.
Nick Laister, leader of the Save Dreamland Campaign said: "Roger Gale's comments appear to be disingenuous, given that this is exactly what the developer is offering. Contrary to Mr Gale's comments, we don't actually know yet whether it is or is not viable to run an amusement park on the Dreamland site. Looking at the vibrancy and popularity of other UK parks in similar resorts (such as Southend's Adventure Island and Southport's Pleasureland), I am convinced that it would be viable. But as we don't know this for certain yet, it is essential that the forthcoming public consultation for the site firstly asks the people of Margate whether they actually want to lose their biggest tourist attraction, before asking them about options for the site's redevelopment. I think the Council would be surprised how many people don't want to lose it.
"I am also concerned that Gale is saying that Stadium's proposals could give the town the facilities that it needs. That is just walking away from tourism - the Dreamland site should not be providing facilities for the town, it should be providing facilities for visitors to the town.
Laister said that the consultation must recognise that Dreamland isn't necessarily doomed: "I will be looking closely at the forthcoming consultation. It will not represent proper consultation if it is predicated on the Dreamland site ceasing to be used as an amusement park. It must ask the people of Margate what they want for the site, and the consultation also needs to involve visitors to Margate, as they are the foundation of the town's future success."
Saturday, 25 January 2003
A new online Forum, to discuss all aspects of the Save Dreamland Campaign, is launched. Everyone is welcome to join in the discussion about the campaign: What is your reaction to the news that Dreamland is to close and the Scenic Railway is to be demolished? Do you think that Margate still needs a major tourist attraction, or do you think that a retail and leisure development would bring in the crowds? Does Dreamland - in the right ownership - still have a future? Should the Scenic Railway be demolished to make way for shops or a casino? Discuss any of the above, or ask your own questions. You can also use the Forum to ask public questions of campaign leader, Nick Laister. Click here for the Save Dreamland Forum.
Friday, 24 January 2003
Mick Twyman, speaking for the Margate Historical Society, tells the Save Dreamland Campaign that he believes that the closure and redevelopment of Dreamland, seemingly with the blessing of Thanet District Council, is not only immensely sad but deplorable: "If we intend to remain as any kind of family resort we must fight to save the Scenic Railway. If we don't, we might as well face the fact that we are finished, and poor old Margate has lost too much already to let that happen." For more of Mick Twyman's comments on the closure of Dreamland, and the comments of some of the other members of the Campaign, click here.
The Save Dreamland Campaign is featured in today's edition of the Isle of Thanet Extra, under the headline 'Dream On'. The news item stated: "An Internet campaign has been launched to save Dreamland, and in particular, the Scenic Railway. Nick Laister, the person who secured listed building status for the ride last year, is now fronting the campaign to save the 83-year-old attraction. Since its launch last week, the campaign has heard from 12,000 people who want to see Dreamland and the Scenic Railway survive..." The article also provided contact details for joining the campaign.
Thursday, 23 January 2003
News of a council meeting yesterday evening reaches the Save Dreamland Campaign. It transpires from this meeting that the first the Council knew of Dreamland closing was in December, when Mr Godden had his first talks with them. At the time they were asked to keep it under wraps. Godden has also revealed to Thanet District Council that he has already started stripping the park and because of this work, he is not sure if the park will open for Easter. Apparently, the idea is that by September all that will remain are structures such as the Helter Skelter and the Scenic Railway.
The Save Dreamland Campaign was reported in trade newspaper World's Fair under the headline 'Campaign to save oldest Roller Coaster'.
Wednesday, 22 January 2003
The Isle of Thanet Extra reported on progress with the Dreamland site today. Thanet District Council, Stadium Developments and Dreamland Leisure have now issued a joint statement pledging:
full commitment to public consultation;
that the replacement project will be built to the highest standard; and that
a working group will be established to set out the parameters from the consultation and master planning process for Margate
As well as mentioning the progress of the Save Dreamland Campaign, the newspaper quotes council leaders, demonstrating just how out of touch they are with the wishes of the residents and businesses of Margate. Cllr Nicholson is reported as saying: "We are adamant that a definable leisure use is built into the project. A run-of-the-mill shopping complex is not desirable at all. Nothing is concrete yet and there is a long way to go. We are happy that the future of the site is under serious discussion because we were left under no illusion that it will close in September."
Nick Laister, commenting on the days news, was unhappy that, yet again councillors seem happy to do away with Margate's biggest tourist attraction, which attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors to the town, for a leisure development that would not draw people into the town:
"Council leaders are again accepting that a change in the site's land use, contrary to the town's Local Plan, is inevitable, when there is absolutely no evidence that a properly run amusement park is not viable on the site. Where is the evidence that this huge and harmful change to Margate as a seaside resort is required? I say it again that the only reason that this is being considered is because of one man's retirement. Why should one person's retirement bring down an entire town, and remove a nationally famous tourist attraction?
"The Council seem to have got things back to front", Laister added. "All 12,000 members of the Save Dreamland Campaign believe that it is completely unacceptable for the council to be entertaining these discussions without firstly consulting on whether the people of Margate want to lose the town's greatest single asset. Only then should options for the site be considered. The Council should listen to the thousands of local residents and businesses, holidaymakers and the national and international organisations that make up the Campaign, none of which can see any good reason why it should go. Listen to the people of the town, and listen to the town's visitors."
Laister ended with a message to Council leaders: "I challenge the Council to provide the Save Dreamland Campaign with the evidence that proves that it is necessary to find a new use for the site."
Other developments today: Margate Events Group, organisers of the Margate Carnival, join the campaign. Speaking to the Save Dreamland Campaign, Chairman of the Margate Events Group, Mick Tomlinson, expressed disappointment that Thanet District Council leaders did not seem to appreciate the disastrous effects that the closure of Dreamland would have on Margate as a tourism destination: "I am confident that other amusement park operators would be prepared to invest in Dreamland. The loss of the amusement park now would be completely needless".
The Save Dreamland Campaign has also been unable to find any confirmation of an offer by a Yorkshire "amusement park operator", as reported on yesterday's Meridian News. Speaking this evening, campaign leader Nick Laister said, "This may well be a confusion with Yorkshire-based Stadium Developments, which has agreed to buy Dreamland. Even if an amusement park operator has made an offer, the owners of Dreamland are unlikely to entertain it, as Thanet District Council seems to have given up on any notion that Margate remains a tourist destination."
Tuesday, 21 January 2003
There is speculation tonight on Meridian News that Dreamland might be saved from closure. It is thought that a buyer has been found in Yorkshire who wants to ensure that site remains an amusement park. This is unconfirmed news. We are currently investigating it further and will post updates here as soon as we get anything further on this interesting development.
The new arts organisation 'LIMBO' today pledges its support for the campaign to save Dreamland and the old Scenic Railway.
Monday, 20 January 2003
Film star Brenda Blethyn is interviewed on BBC Radio Kent about saving Dreamland, and Thanet Tourism leader, Iris Johnston, also appears saying how important it is to save the site. Campaign leader Nick Laister is interviewed about the campaign by TLR Radio and the Isle of Thanet Gazette.
Sunday, 19 January 2003
Nick Laister is interviewed at Dreamland by Meridian Television's Rachel Harries for ITV Regional News. Standing by the Scenic Railway, Laister explained the importance of the ride to Britain's heritage, and the importance of Dreamland to Margate's tourism industry. Laister described the redevelopment of Dreamland as, "the final nail in the coffin of Margate as a seaside resort."
Jim Godden, the park's owner, pulled out of the interview at the last minute.
A meeting was also held in Margate between Nick Laister (Save Dreamland Campaign leader), Sarah Vickery (Vice-Chair of the Isle of Thanet Tourism Association and proprietor of the Shell Grotto - a grade I listed tourist attraction) and Mick Twyman (Margate Historical Society). The meeting discussed how to take the campaign forward locally, and options for the future of the site.
Right: Meridian Television's Rachel Harries pictured outside the Dreamland entrance.
Saturday, 18 January 2003
More details on Dreamland's new owners' plans for the site are revealed in the Isle of Thanet Gazette. Stadium Developments and Jimmy Godden, who propose a joint venture development, have also now confirmed that the grade II listed Scenic Railway is to go. Draft plans include a hotel, casino, swimming pool and children's play area, but Stadium has not ruled out retail development for the remainder of the site. Godden and Stadium Developments met with Thanet Council on Friday, but the outcome of this meeting is not known. A separate meeting was also held with North Thanet MP Roger Gale and Conservative group leader Sandy Ezekiel. Gale is quoted in the Isle of Thanet Gazette as being "horrified" by the proposals, particularly the fact that they have been discussed with the council behind closed doors. He also pointed out that the proposals as they stand would constitute a significant change to the Local Plan. But Gale added that "if there was a sensible proposal for a mixture of retail and leisure that would provide good all-weather facilities I would want to look very seriously at that."
Also speaking to the Isle of Thanet Gazette is Thanet Council's tourism chief, Iris Johnston. She is quoted in saying: "It is Mr Godden's site and it is his to develop as he wishes....We had high hopes for Dreamland, but it is Mr Godden's land and property and we just have to see what best comes from this now."
Speaking today, Save Dreamland Campaign leader Nick Laister expressed disappointment at recent developments: "I am not disappointed that the site has been sold; that is entirely expected and makes no difference whatsoever in planning terms. I am, however, very concerned at the comments of Roger Gale and Iris Johnston. Mr Gale seems to believe that, if a leisure development is proposed for the site, this will be acceptable. The site is not in leisure use; it is a tourist attraction. Leisure developments serve the local people, tourist attractions attract people into a town. Dreamland brings hundreds of thousands of visitors into the town every year. If it is replaced by a leisure development, such as a swimming pool or casino, this will remove a substantial chunk of Margate's visitors. A survey undertaken by Thanet District Council last year showed that 25% of Margate's visitors had come to visit Dreamland.
"The Save Dreamland Campaign is backed by local residents and owners of tourist-related businesses such as shops, hotels and other attractions. They all know that Margate's tourism industry cannot survive the removal of Margate's biggest attraction."
Laister also expressed concern at the comments of Iris Johnston: "Mrs Johnston's comments really beggar belief. In this country we have a Town & Country Planning Act. No-one has the right to do with a site what they wish. You need to get planning permission first, and planning permission is not granted if a development is going to be harmful. Mrs Johnston should know that. And there is also a listed building on site which is also not his to develop as he pleases. What the people of Margate want is a new operator for Dreamland, who can invest in the site and in Margate's future. Listed building policy actually requires the freehold to be marketed at a realistic price first before any plans such as this can be contemplated. I ask Mrs Johnston to walk first before she starts running."
Support for the Save Dreamland Campaign grows, with many key Margate tourism businesses joining. The Campaign, which speaks for over 12,000 people who want to see Dreamland and its Scenic Railway survive, will be pressing the Council to look closely at planning and listed building policy before supporting these proposals, and to listen to the Margate's residents and tourism businesses that are investing in the town's future as a seaside resort. Nick Laister said: "Our Campaign members, the largest single voice on this issue, are simply asking the Council to give tourism a chance."
Friday, 17 January 2003
In a worrying development, Jimmy Godden today concluded a deal with East Yorkshire-based developers Stadium Developments Limited for the sale of Dreamland. Stadium proposes to redevelop the entire site, the development to include a supermarket, hotel, casino, swimming pool and children's play area. Stadium has apparently been in talks with Thanet Council about the redevelopment of the site since before Christmas. Godden and Stadium Developments also met with Thanet Council planners today to discuss plans for the redevelopment in more detail.
Local heritage group, the Margate Historical Society joined the Save Dreamland Campaign today. The Society's Mick Twyman told Save Dreamland that they have been very disappointed with Thanet Council's handling of the matter to date, which has been entirely "behind closed doors". The Society will work closely with Save Dreamland Campaign leader Nick Laister over the coming months, in particular monitoring local news and issuing letters of objection where appropriate.
The Journal of the Royal Town Planning Institute, 'Planning', reported on the campaign to save Dreamland and the Scenic Railway in its 17 January issue, out today. The article stated that "the owners of the Dreamland Pleasure Park in Margate have said that the park is likely to close". The news item added: "Nick Laister, leader of the Save Dreamland Campaign, is due to present planning officers with alternative proposals for the site in the next few months".
Thursday, 16 January 2003
Conservation group Save Britain's Heritage (SAVE) joins the campaign. SAVE, established in 1975, has been described as the most influential conservation group since William Morris founded the Society for the Protection of Ancient Monuments over a century ago. The organisation has pledged its support to the campaign, and will be working closely with Nick Laister to ensure that the issue gets as wide a coverage as possible. The Save Dreamland Campaign will also be mentioned in SAVE's next newsletter, which goes out to all SAVE members and to a number of influential decision-makers.
Wednesday, 15 January 2003
Nick Laister interviewed about the Campaign on British Forces Radio and BBC Radio Kent.
Monday, 13 January 2003
The Daily Telegraph covers the story under the headline "Fight to save scenic railway". The news item states that a campaign has been launched to save the country's oldest fairground ride, an 83-year-old "scenic railway" in Margate, Kent, from closure. It explains that the park's owner, Jimmy Godden, wants to turn Dreamland into "shops and leisure precinct even though its roller coaster is Grade II listed". The Bulletin goes on to add: "Nick Laister, who is leading the campaign, said that the fairground had drawn millions of visitors from London's East End over the years and bulldozing the roller coaster, which requires a brake man to ride on it to prevent it leaving the rails, would be 'like knocking down Big Ben'".
Although Nick denies comparing the Scenic Railway to Big Ben, he is pleased to see the Campaign receive national coverage: "I aim to focus this week on further raising awareness to the Campaign nationally".
The news was also covered in Amusement Today, the US monthly magazine serving the amusement industry. The article stated:
"Currently a campaign is underway by coaster enthusiasts in the country to find a new home for Runaway Coaster and save the Scenic Railway, if not Dreamland itself. The Railway does have status as a listed historic structure, but that will not necessarily save the ride from demolition, said Nick Laister, editor of Joyland Books website and the person spearheading the campaign to save the rides."
Sunday, 12 January 2003
Part of Dreamland might have to go, says the leader of the Save Dreamland Campaign. In a statement this morning, Nick Laister explained that it is important for the Save Dreamland Campaign to put forward a plan for the future of the park, not just to object to the site's redevelopment. He said:
"Dreamland is a large amusement park, and it might be too big for the town. The park owner, Jimmy Godden, has made no secret of the fact that he has been exploring options to sell off part of the site for redevelopment for a couple of years. I have discussed this with planning policy officers at Thanet Council, and that might well be the solution that provides the biggest benefit to Margate. If part of the site were to be sold for development, some of the proceeds could be ring-fenced and ploughed back into the remainder of the park to improve its appearance. These proceeds could also fund the restoration of the Scenic Railway. This would be secured through a Section 106 legal agreement, as is common with developments of this size and scale. I intend talking to officers at the Council over the coming weeks to explore this solution further. What I am absolutely certain about, though, is that the complete loss of a tourist attraction of this size and popularity would be the worst possible solution for the town's tourism industry."
Laister, who is a planning consultant and is involved in tourism development projects across the UK, has vowed to keep all members of the Campaign updated over the coming months. To join the Campaign, and receive these updates, click here.
Saturday, 11 January 2003
The American Coaster Enthusiasts (ACE) join the campaign. Speaking this morning, Preservation Director Matt Crowther explained the importance of saving Britain's oldest operating roller coaster:
"The American Coaster Enthusiasts (ACE), as the world's largest club of amusement park fans, with over 8,000 members worldwide, fully supports the effort to preserve the Scenic Railway. It is the fifth oldest operating roller coaster in the World, and one of only nine scenic railways left in the World. One of ACE's primary goals is the preservation of historic roller coasters, and we feel that the Scenic Railway easily meets the criteria as a valuable piece of the history of amusement parks and as such should be saved."
Friday, 10 January 2003
News that certain key people within Thanet District Council might have resigned themselves to the closure of Dreamland reaches Joyland Books today. Interviewed by the Isle of Thanet Gazette, Council Leader Richard Nicholson said: "We regret that Mr Godden now considers the future of Dreamland...to be no longer commercially viable, but if that is the reality then we have no choice but to accept his decision." This is despite Government Planning Policy Guidance requiring owners of listed buildings to provide evidence that a site containing a listed building is no longer commercially viable, including a requirement to market the unrestricted freehold on the open market (see Frequently Asked Questions).
Campaign leader Nick Laister said: "This is a concerning development. But I am reassured that Cllr Nicholson qualifies his remarks by saying 'if that is the reality', suggesting that he will wish to see evidence, as required by national planning policy. Planning policy guidance makes it absolutely clear that a council should not allow the demolition of a listed building unless a convincing case is made out against specific criteria. I have seen no evidence yet that it would not be commercially viable to continue to run some, or all, of Dreamland, nor have I seen any evidence that the freehold of the site has been marketed, as also required by planning policy. If Dreamland is redeveloped, there will be no turning back. This is a tourist attraction, not a leisure or retail site. Changing a tourist attraction to a different land use will have a marked effect on the fortunes of the town. The many hundreds of people who have contacted me are all certain that Margate needs a major tourist attraction. Without Dreamland, which is unique in this part of the country, Margate will have nothing to mark it out from the crowd."
The Campaign has gained pace today. A new Campaign page has been launched, explaining how you can help, and by clicking here you can read what some of our Campaign members have been saying. Click here for answers to frequently asked questions.
Thursday, 9 January 2003
The European Coaster Club has now joined the campaign to save Dreamland and the Scenic Railway. Speaking to Joyland Books, Richard Foster - Chairman of the 1,500-strong organisation - said: "A considerable number of our members, including myself, have many happy memories of riding the Scenic Railway. This is truly sad news and everyone I have spoken to has agreed that something must be done. The European Coaster Club is 100% behind this campaign and we are all crossing our fingers hoping that we will be able to ride the Scenic Railway for many more years to come."
If you feel strongly about protecting the 83-year-old Scenic Railway roller coaster - Britain's only listed amusement park ride - and the popular Dreamland Fun Park in which it stands, email Nick Laister by clicking here and join the campaign.
Tuesday, 7 January 2003
Nick Laister, editor of joylandbooks.com and the person who last year secured the Scenic Railway's status as a listed building, announced that he is to lead a campaign to save the park and the ride. Speaking this afternoon, Laister said:
"As an amusement park historian, I have watched the heart ripped out of too many seaside resorts just so that an amusement park owner can make a fast return on the development value of the land. Resorts such as Morecambe and Whitley Bay have never really recovered from the loss of their amusement parks. I don't want to see the same happen to Margate. Put simply, a multiplex cinema and shops do not bring tourists to a seaside town.
"Of course, I would be very disappointed to lose the Scenic Railway roller coaster, which is unquestionably the single most important amusement park ride in Britain. But, I think of more concern to me is the harm that the loss of the park as a whole would have on Margate's tourism industry. Margate is one of Britain's great seaside towns, but can it survive the loss of its biggest tourist attraction? I very much doubt it. And when this park is redeveloped, it can never be replaced.
"I just hope that Thanet Council realises that if Jimmy Godden doesn't want to run this important seaside tourist attraction, others would almost certainly be prepared to do so. Granting planning permission for the complete redevelopment of the park rules out any chance of having a fun park in Margate.
"As a planning consultant, I am involved in cases such as this every day. There are a number of avenues open to us in trying to save Dreamland. I will be exploring them over the coming weeks."
To email Nick Laister and join him in his campaign, click here.
Monday, 6 January 2003
The closure of the park is announced and covered by BBC News. Quoted on the BBC Kent News page, Dreamland owner Jimmy Godden stated that, whilst the park is to be replaced by retail and leisure boxes, the Dreamland cinema, bingo and Chinese restaurant are to stay.
Although no formal planning application has yet been submitted, Thanet Council's leader Richard Nicholson has seemingly accepted that the park's days are numbered. Speaking to BBC News, he said: "We have to face the fact that, whilst we could refuse anything that does affect Dreamland Leisure Park, Mr Godden is quite entitled to close it. What we don't want to end up with is a closed leisure park steadily going into dereliction within the centre of Margate and near the seafront."
Nick Laister, editor of joylandbooks.com and the person behind the campaign to get the Scenic Railway listed, made the following statement:
"I find it astonishing that the closure of Dreamland could be seen as a benefit to Margate. Dreamland is the only major seaside fun park in this part of the country. If it closes, what will bring the people to Margate? Retail boxes and a supermarket? You can see these in any town in Britain, you don't have to go to Margate.
"Dreamland is unique. It has the oldest roller coaster in Britain (83 years old), which is one of only two surviving scenic railways in the country. It is surely worth saving, as my report to English Heritage demonstrated. Councillor Nicholson's remarks on BBC News about the park being closed and left to decay seem to forget that planning policy (in PPG15) requires sites with listed buildings to be marketed before they are demolished. I am sure that if Jimmy Godden doesn't want to run the park, there are others who would run it. That way Margate gets to keep its park and tourists still have a reason to visit the town."
If you would like to join Nick Laister in his campaign to save Dreamland and the Scenic Railway, click here.
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