News: February 2003

Friday, 28 February 2003

Campaign leader, Nick Laister, and Local Campaign Coordinator, Sarah Vickery, today met the Leader of Thanet District Council, Richard Nicholson, to discuss the future of Dreamland and the Scenic Railway. After the meeting, Nick Laister commented:

“This was an extremely positive and very useful meeting. Councillor Nicholson is strongly of the view that the Dreamland site must remain a draw to visitors. He confirmed to us that the ideas put forward by Stadium Developments are completely unacceptable. We also discussed the new masterplan for Margate, which is to be drawn up by consultants. Cllr Nicholson made it clear that the Council will accept nothing less than a visitor attraction for the Dreamland site, and that the Save Dreamland Campaign, along with other organisations, will be closely consulted throughout the process. The Save Dreamland Campaign strongly welcomes Cllr Nicholson’s acknowledgement that the Dreamland site must remain a tourist destination, and we have agreed to work closely with the Council Leader in ensuring the best outcome for Margate.”

The Save Dreamland Campaign has also now had sight of the Council's proposed amendments to the Local Plan. Nick Laister comments:

“Since the meeting with Councillor Nicholson, we have now had time to take in the changes proposed to the Local Plan. These changes concern us deeply. The Council has worked on the Plan for a number of years, and the Plan has recently gone through a period of public consultation. The Plan stated that development that would lead to a reduction in the attractiveness or tourism potential of the Dreamland amusement park will normally be resisted. During the public consultation, there was an objection to this policy, in that it was thought that the word “normally” would allow an unwelcome degree of flexibility. The cross party Local Plan Working Party agreed with the objection, and the word “normally” was removed. This was also endorsed by Cabinet on 3rd December last year. In the current policy as drafted – handed to us today at the meeting with the Council Leader - that entire part of the policy has now been deleted with no explanation.

“But that isn’t all. There is much worse to come. The second part of the Local Plan policy on Dreamland referred to the possibility of part of the site being redeveloped. This previously allowed, in exceptional circumstances, a limited part of the site to be redeveloped as part of a comprehensive scheme for the upgrading and improvement of the amusement park. At the Cabinet meeting on 3rd December 2002, members expressed concern at the use of the word “limited” as they did not feel it was sufficiently restrictive. Officers were asked to consider alternatives and report back.

“Inexplicably, this entire part of the policy has now been deleted, replacing it with a policy that allows for the complete redevelopment of the site, as long as certain criteria are met.”

Nick Laister concludes: “How can a policy which aims to secure the future of the Dreamland Amusement Park, and which following consultation has been progressively strengthened, suddenly now be completely redrafted to allow for the entire site’s redevelopment? Since the Council's Cabinet meeting on 3rd December, the Council has met with the developers of the Dreamland site. It is clear that, following that meeting with the developers, the Council has now tossed this part of the Local Plan into the dustbin. That is despite the fact that the previous policy was put in place in order to protect Margate against this very thing happening! This is also despite the consultation, and the hard work that people have put into getting the policy right. How can the Council just throw away all the work that has been done on this plan by officers, by the Local Plan Working Group, by the Cabinet and through the public consultation?

“For the council to u-turn on their policy so quickly after the meeting with the developers is seen by the Save Dreamland Campaign as a complete betrayal of the people and businesses of Margate.  

“The Save Dreamland Campaign, on behalf of its members, will be writing to the Council seeking a full explanation for this u-turn.”

Also today, Nick Laister was interviewed by TLR FM on the masterplan for Margate. Both Nick and Sarah Vickery were later interviewed by students of Canterbury Christ Church University College who are making a documentary about the closure of Dreamland. 

The final pieces of the Looping Star are dismantled and packed away for their journey to Loudoun Castle Theme Park, Scotland.

The Isle of Thanet Gazette also reported today on an attempt by the local Conservative Group to form a charitable trust to move the Scenic Railway to another location. The Save Dreamland Campaign believes this to be an ill-conceived exercise, which has been designed to shift the focus away from the main issues, which are to save Dreamland as a tourist destination for the benefit of Margate, and to protect the listed, historic Scenic Railway from being dismantled unnecessarily. The Campaign has already stated its formal position on this proposal, which has many serious flaws. Our formal position is here.

The final pieces of the Looping Star are removed from the site.

Tuesday, 25 February 2003

The Margate Hotel and Guest House Association joins the Save Dreamland Campaign. The Association has pledged its complete support to saving the fun park and its Scenic Railway.

The Save Dreamland Convention is announced in the Thanet Times newspaper under the headline, 'Roller coaster fans will join rally'. The article stated: "Roller coaster fans from all over the world will be converging on Margate at Easter for a massive convention to save Dreamland. It is being organised by the Save Dreamland Campaign, which claims to represent more than 12,000 people fighting for the seafront leisure park and the historic grade II listed Scenic Railway. The packed programme at the Theatre Royal on Saturday 19th April includes talks by Richard Foster of the European Coaster Club and campaign leader Nick Laister. Mick Tomlinson, chairman of Margate Events Group, will be taking the audience through Dreamland's colourful history. There will be a special screening of the 1953 short film "O Dreamland". The events, which start at 1pm, will end on a debate on how to take the campaign forward."

Save Dreamland Campaign members tonight attended an open meeting at the Fort Lodge Hotel, Cliftonville, called by Roger Gale MP, Sandy Ezekiel and Colin Kiddell of the local Conservative Party to discuss their plans to form a trust to raise funds to move the Scenic Railway.

In the event, only campaign members plus Colin Kiddell and Barry Moss (General Manager of Dreamland) were present due to a lack of publicity, so the meeting was postponed.

However, Kiddell outlined his plans to form a charitable trust and advised those present that he is currently in negotiations with Jimmy Godden to this end. Kiddell insisted that the Scenic Railway can be moved without Listed Building Consent as it is a "moveable structure".

Save Dreamland Campaign leader Nick Laister comments: "This is a big red herring. Firstly, contrary to what people were told this evening, listed building consent is required to move the Scenic Railway. And, assuming listed building consent was granted (and the applicants have several hurdles to cross before it is), to move the ride would be tremendously expensive. It is also worth bearing in mind that should the ride ever be rebuilt - and I believe that once it is dismantled the chances of it being ever rebuilt are remote - the ride would probably no longer be protected by listed building status. Given the fact that it would also have to pay for its own upkeep - potentially in a remote part of the town - I would give it a short lifespan when the money runs out. This proposal is, we believe, fatally flawed. The best and most secure place for the Scenic Railway is part of a viable amusement park - and Margate already has one of those at Dreamland. It is our belief that this proposal has been designed to take people's attention away from the real issues at stake here. Rest assured, we will not take our eyes off the ball. The Save Dreamland Campaign does not support this proposal, and we urge all our members to distance themselves from it."

The suggested sites for the ride include the promenade behind the Sea Bathing Hospital, the promenade between the Lido and Winter Gardens and the current site of Margate FC.

Local campaign Co-ordinator Sarah Vickery added: "This is an incredibly ill-conceived plan. None of the sites mentioned are feasible; I don't believe a site exists in Margate that could accommodate this ride in a location where it would attract visitors. In any event, where would the huge sums of money required for this project come from? In my opinion, this is nothing more than a smokescreen."

Monday, 24 February 2003

The Save Dreamland Campaign is featured in 'Platform', the Journal of The Fairground Society, under the headline 'Britain's Oldest Roller Coaster in Danger'. The UK's other major fairground organisation, the Fairground Association of Great Britain, formally joined the Campaign yesterday.

Sunday, 23 February 2003

The Fairground Association of Great Britain (FAGB) joins the Save Dreamland Campaign. The FAGB was founded in 1978, and is now the UK's leading club for fairground enthusiasts, with members as far a field as Australia and North America.

Saturday, 22 February 2003

Campaign Leader Nick Laister appears at the European Coaster Club AGM at Drayton Manor Family Theme Park near Tamworth. Nick presented a PowerPoint presentation on the history of Dreamland and the Scenic Railway and on progress with the Save Dreamland Campaign. He also answered questions from ECC members about the Campaign. Nick and ECC Chairman Richard Foster (both pictured right) announced details of the forthcoming Save Dreamland Convention at Margate's Theatre Royal in April.

The February 2003 issue of Antique Amusement Magazine features an article on the Save Dreamland Convention, including an interview with Nick Laister.

Friday, 21 February 2003

Progress with the Save Dreamland Campaign is covered on the back page of today's Planning Magazine, the Journal of the Royal Town Planning Institute, with quotes from Roger Lloyd Pack ('Trigger' in only Fools and Horses) and Nick Laister (Campaign Leader). Trade newspaper the World's Fair features news of Roger Lloyd Pack joining the Save Dreamland Campaign, and announces the launch of the Campaign's local headquarters at the Shell Grotto, Margate.

Dreamland Leisure also takes out a half-page advert in World's Fair, stating "Due to redevelopment of Dreamland Amusement Park, Margate and Rotunda Amusement Park, Folkestone, the following rides are available for immediate sale or possibly rent (static amusement parks only and for at least 3 year term contract)." In total, the advert lists 46 rides for sale, including the following rides from Margate: 1980 Supercar Helter Skelter, 1996 Reverchon Log Drop, 1998 Maurer Sohne Wild Mouse coaster, 1900 Savages 4-abreast Gallopers, 1960 King Kong Ghost Train and 1950 Maxwell Waltzer. Rides advertised from Folkestone include 1986 Minifab Log Flume, 1998 Reverchon Magic Mouse coaster, 1975 Supercar Castle of Terror Ghost Train, 1905 Savages 3-abreast Gallopers, 1930 Supercar Helter Skelter and 1960 Maxwell Waltzer. The advert also includes the following notice regarding the Runaway Coaster: "A real special: Dismountable wooden coaster, side friction cars - a draw for any park." The advert also states that "sites for these rides and other rides are available at both parks for the forthcoming season".

The Isle of Thanet Gazette today features a letter from Council Leader Iris Johnston, which follows on from the commitments given to the Save Dreamland Campaign earlier in the week. The letter states:

"I feel it is important that everyone who has expressed an interest in the future of Dreamland should be aware that I have discussed with Paul Healy of the Stadium Group the possibility of the scenic railway staying on site in line with its listed status, as has happened in America. He has been very sympathetic to that view and is willing to explore the possibilities."

Campaign leader Nick Laister said, "This is a pleasing development, certainly a step in the right direction, and is in line with what we discussed with Cllr Johnston earlier in the week. Our members will not be satisfied, however, until we see that the provisions of the new Local Plan are followed, because that is the only way to secure a future for the resort as a viable tourist destination. We will not be satisfied with merely a retail and leisure development. Margate deserves better than that."

Thursday, 20 February 2003

A major event has been announced for all supporters of the Save Dreamland Campaign. The Save Dreamland Convention is to be held on Easter Saturday 19th April 2003 at Margate’s historic Theatre Royal, and is being organised in association with the European Coaster Club. Hundreds of roller coaster enthusiasts from around the world are expected to attend, as well as local people, some whose livelihoods depend upon tourism trade and many who care for Margate’s heritage and its future. Starting at 1pm, the convention will include a history of Dreamland by Mick Tomlinson, Chairman of the Margate Events Group; a talk about the importance of the Scenic Railway by Richard Foster, Chairman of the European Coaster Club; and Nick Laister, leader of the Save Dreamland Campaign, will tell supporters how they can make a difference. Also part of the packed programme will be a special screening of the landmark 1953 short film, ‘O Dreamland’. After the event, campaign supporters will congregate outside Dreamland for a photograph. 
The event is being organised by Local Campaign Coordinator, Sarah Vickery, who says, “This is an opportunity for everyone who feels strongly about Dreamland’s future to make their voice heard and send a clear message to the decision makers. We can do this through the Save Dreamland Convention, and have some fun in the process!”

Full details of the event can be found on the Save Dreamland Convention page.

Click here for the full press release.

Wednesday, 19 February 2003

Campaign Leader Nick Laister and Local Campaign Coordinator Sarah Vickery speak of a very "positive" meeting yesterday with Deputy Council Leader Iris Johnston. Nick Laister, commenting on yesterday's talks, said, "I am very reassured by our meeting with Cllr Johnston. We discussed in great detail the emerging Local Plan, which states that proposals that would lead to a reduction in the attractiveness or tourism potential of Dreamland Amusement Park will be resisted. Whilst the policy does allow for a limited part of the site to be redeveloped, Cllr Johnston confirmed that the Plan, which is now at its final stages, has recently been strengthened, to reduce the amount of the site that can be redeveloped. It is clear from our meeting that Cllr Johnston and her officers have put a tremendous amount of work into the Plan." 

The Plan, as previously drafted, allowed in exceptional circumstances the development of a "limited" part of the site, provided "the future viability of the amusement park can be assured". The word "limited" has now been replied by a stronger word. The Plan will be going to full council for approval shortly.

Laister adds: "Cllr Johnson also made clear to us that she is committed to the retention of the Scenic Railway on the Dreamland site. I am pleased to also be able to report back to our 12,000 supporters Cllr Johnston's complete commitment to a tourist attraction on the Dreamland site. I believe that the Save Dreamland Campaign can work with Cllr Johnston to ensure that a viable amusement park, centred on the Scenic Railway, emerges that can take Margate forward as a family tourism destination. We aim to continue this positive dialogue over the coming weeks and months, and will be working very closely with Cllr Johnston to look at viable alternative proposals."

Referring to the Campaign's separate meeting yesterday evening with North Thanet MP Roger Gale at Margate's historic Shell Grotto, Nick Laister described the talks as a "frank exchange of ideas". Laister adds, "Mr Gale told us that no decision has been taken on the future of the Dreamland site by the Conservative group, but that Mr Gale and Local Conservative Leader Sandy Ezekiel will be looking seriously at other viable, quality operators that could take over the amusement park site. Mr Gale made it clear to us that he wants to see something that will bring people into the town."

Right: Sarah Vickery, Roger Gale MP and Nick Laister pictured at the Shell Grotto.

In a separate development, the Save Dreamland Campaign has learnt that showmen are being approached by Dreamland's owners and asked to go into Dreamland for the summer season to take the places of the disappearing rides. More on this as it breaks.

The final piece of news today: Thanet District Council has issued a press release stating that leading planning consultants are being invited to submit proposals for a masterplanning exercise looking at the future of Margate. The work is to be commissioned jointly by Thanet District Council, Kent County Council, the developers of the Dreamland site, the South East of England Development Agency and English Partnerships. According to the press release, the successful consultants will be asked to examine the opportunities which exist at a number of potential development sites in and around Margate, including the Dreamland site.

Leader of the Save Dreamland Campaign Nick Laister comments today, "Whilst we would strongly support a masterplan for the regeneration of Margate, we are at a loss to see why the Dreamland site is to be included within the brief. The Local Plan is firm about the use of the Dreamland site, and we have no confirmation whatsoever that it is no longer viable as an amusement park. Until we have that confirmation, then this element of the proposed work is entirely without foundation. The people of Margate have already been consulted about the Dreamland site, via the development plan process. It is essential that this consultation is undertaken within the framework set by the development plan, otherwise the Council has been wasting its time. It is also essential that the importance of the town's listed buildings, including the Scenic Railway, is fully taken into account in the consultation and masterplanning process." The full press release is here.

Tuesday, 18 February 2003

Campaign Leader Nick Laister and Local Campaign Coordinator Sarah Vickery today meet with both Deputy Council Leader Iris Johnston and, in a separate meeting, North Thanet MP Roger Gale. At the former meeting, Nick and Sarah will ask for clarification on the Council's position regarding the Local Plan. At both meetings they will put forward the tourism case for retaining Dreamland, and will warn about the likely effects of the current proposals, which they fear would result in a serious drop in the number of people visiting the town. The Save Dreamland Campaign is backed up by planning policy in the Local Plan which resists the redevelopment of Dreamland. Nick Laister says: "The only reason that we can see why redevelopment is being proposed is one man's retirement. That is not good planning. We will be asking if there are any other planning reasons for supporting the Stadium proposals. If there aren't, then we will be asking the council and the local MP to back our position."

The Save Dreamland Campaign will presenting the results of its own research on the viability and regenerative effects of seaside amusement parks in other towns. Some of the statistics that will be presented to the meeting can be seen by clicking here. This shows that investment at the seaside amusement parks at Southend-on-Sea and Southport over the past eight to ten years has resulted in significant increases in visitor numbers at the parks and - as a knock-on effect - at the resorts themselves.

Nick Laister will also take a tough line on recent press statements: "We will be seeking an explanation for many of the recent statements in the press which seem to fly in the face of both planning policy and the wishes of the people and businesses of Margate. Certainly many of the statements have baffled our members." 

The Save Dreamland Campaign will also be putting forward a proposal to rescue the site. The Campaign will also be seeking commitments from the council to ensure that the Scenic Railway is retained, and to ensure that the forthcoming consultation is undertaken within the framework set by the council's own Local Plan.

The Campaign hopes to be able to release a statement about the meetings on Wednesday.

Council Leader Richard Nicholson has also contacted the Campaign, following the letter issued last week. A meeting date will be announced shortly. 


Monday, 17 February 2003

The Margate Civic Society joins the Save Dreamland Campaign. Founded in 1968, the Society's aims are the encouragement of high standards of architecture and town planning in Margate and environs and to stimulate
public interest and care for the history and character of the area. The Society also encourages the preservation, development and improvement of features of general amenity or historical interest. The Society campaigned for several years to get the Scenic Railway listed, and their support for the campaign is welcomed by Campaign Leader, Nick Laister: "The Society played a pivotal role in bringing the historical importance of the Scenic Railway to the attention of the relevant authorities. Were it not for their hard work, the ride might not be listed today. I also think that a locally-prominent organisation like the Civic Society joining the Campaign demonstrates very clearly the strength of feeling on this issue. I know that the people of Margate take great pride in Dreamland and the Scenic Railway; it is an attraction that people just don't want to lose."

Saturday, 15 February 2003

The European Coaster Club announces that Save Dreamland Campaign Leader Nick Laister is to attend the organisation's Annual General Meeting, to be held at Drayton Manor Park on 22nd February. Nick Laister said, "I am delighted to be attending the European Coaster Club's AGM. The Club has been incredibly supportive of this campaign. As we will be meeting council leaders this coming Tuesday afternoon, and the MP on Tuesday evening, I hope to be able to take some up-to-date news on the future of the Scenic Railway with me to the meeting. We will also be announcing details of a special event to be held in Margate in April."

Friday, 14 February 2003

Thanet District Council Cabinet Vice Chairman Iris Johnston makes contact with the Save Dreamland Campaign and a meeting is arranged with campaign representatives Nick Laister and Sarah Vickery for 18th February at the Council offices in Margate.

The Isle of Thanet Gazette devotes page three to news of the Campaign today, under heading 'Actor battles to save Dreamland but rides are being dismantled.' The article reported, "One of Dreamland's biggest attractions, the Looping Star, was being dismantled this week fuelling fears that the leisure park could close before the end of the summer season." It described the move as "the first visible signs of running down the complex." 

The article goes on to repeat Only Fools and Horses star Roger Lloyd Pack's support for the Save Dreamland Campaign and announces that "A Save Dreamland Campaign day at the Theatre Royal is being planned and is expected to attract hundreds of roller coaster enthusiasts from all over the country."

The Gazette also recognises the hard work of Local Campaign Coordinator, Sarah Vickery: "Sarah Vickery, who runs the campaign office from Margate's Shell Grotto said: 'The idea behind getting in touch with celebrities and the special day is to raise awareness. It is also important to let people know that Dreamland's closure is not a foregone conclusion. We are resigned to the fact that some of the rides will be going, but it is vital that the Scenic Railway remains.'"

Concluding, the report states, "Miss Vickery and campaign leader Nick Laister will be meeting North Thanet MP Roger Gale on Tuesday to discuss the planning issues involved."

The KM Extra newspaper carried the story under the headline, 'TV star backs fight to save Dreamland', with quotes from both 'Trigger' actor Roger Lloyd Pack and Save Dreamland Campaign Leader Nick Laister. It also mentioned the growing support for the Save Dreamland Campaign amongst local residents, businesses and organisations and noted that the Campaign's local headquarters are at Margate's Shell Grotto tourist attraction. 

Wednesday, 12 February 2003

The Save Dreamland Campaign issues a letter to Thanet District Council regarding the forthcoming public consultation on the future of the Dreamland site. The letter provides evidence that shows that the redevelopment of Dreamland would result in a fatal blow to the town's tourism economy. It also shows why Dreamland is lagging behind other comparable seaside amusement parks and why the amusement park does have a viable future. The letter concludes:

"Dreamland has been run down over recent years by its current owner. The emerging Local Plan recognises this and warns that this might result in pressure for redevelopment and that this could be harmful to Margate. Because of this, a policy has been included that restricts any such redevelopment to a very limited part of the site and ensures that any redevelopment that does take place results in the upgrading of the amusement park. The Council is now faced with exactly the scenario predicted by the Local Plan; it would make no sense for the Council to ignore the Plan and proceed with a public consultation that pays no regard to the Plan's policies. In addition, listed buildings policies – relevant in relation to the Scenic railway – also require a number of steps to be taken by the developer, none of which (to the best of our knowledge) have yet been carried out.

"The forthcoming public consultation must therefore be undertaken within the framework set by the emerging Local Plan and national planning guidance."

The letter can be downloaded in in PDF format here (172kb), and in Microsoft Word format here (59kb). (Note that to view the letter in PDF format, you will need Adobe Acrobat Reader, which can be downloaded for free by clicking here).

The letter was copied to Council Leader Richard Nicholson and Cabinet Vice Chairman Iris Johnston. A meeting has been requested with both Councillors to discuss the contents of the letter. Should a response be received, we will report it on this page. The letter was also copied to North Thanet MP Roger Gale, who is meeting with representatives of the Save Dreamland Campaign on 18th February.

Sarah Vickery (Local Campaign Coordinator) was interviewed on TLR FM, Thanet's local radio. Sarah announced a major forthcoming event to be organised by the Save Dreamland Campaign and held in Margate on Easter Weekend. More on that event very soon on this website. Be sure to check back!

Tuesday, 11 February 2003

The Save Dreamland Campaign is featured on the front page of the Thanet Times today under heading 'Trigger pleads for Dreamland'. The news item states: "Trigger from Only Fools and Horses has joined the campaign to save Dreamland and Britain's oldest roller coaster. Actor Roger Lloyd Pack, one of the main characters in the telly favourite, is pleading for the amusement park not to disappear."

The article then quotes Roger's words of support for the campaign and explains that Only Fools and Horses filmed one of its extended special episodes at Dreamland.

Monday, 10 February 2003

European Coaster Club Chairman Richard Foster and club member Judith Turnbull are interviewed by BBC Radio Solent. Richard tells the Southampton-based radio station about the Club's support for the Save Dreamland Campaign.

Friday's Isle of Thanet Gazette interviews Dreamland concessionaire Vanda Eley, whose family have run a candy floss business at the park for three generations. Vanda has no doubt that there is a future for the park, even though her family quit the park at the end of last season after the park owner removed all the rides from the area adjacent to her stall, leaving it empty. "I do not think that we need bigger and better rides, we just need to make what's there look good," she says in the interview. "The park has been noted for being filthy."

Similarly, Vanda's cousin Enza Hamilton will lose the two catering businesses she has owned for ten years when the park closes. She said, "There is just not the investment in the rides and it has gone downhill."

Both Vanda and Enza are confident that, if the park is saved, its fortunes could be turned around. "There is definitely a future at the park," Enza said, "I do not think the plans as they stand will attract people to Margate...People want an open air facility in the summer - and we have got this sort of facility already."

In the newspaper interview, Vanda Eley also expresses her confidence about the park's future success: "It is viable and I would like to see it stay as it is, but with someone who cares about the park and will invest in it."

Save Dreamland Campaign Leader, Nick Laister, said: "The Save Dreamland Campaign members know that the site is viable. The concessionaires on the park know it is viable. The only people who don't seem to realise that are the elected members at Thanet District Council. The Save Dreamland Campaign will be formally issuing a letter to Thanet District Council tomorrow, setting out some fundamental issues about Dreamland. I have already spoken about Southend's Adventure Island amusement park, which has been the focus of the town's regeneration over the past ten years, and now attracts 1.5 million visitors every year. We will present statistics on other similar-sized parks in comparable British seaside resorts, and show that these all attract between 1.5 and 2 million visitors every year. The only reason that Dreamland doesn't attract these numbers of visitors any more is simply down to lack of investment and lack of commitment from its owner. Where is the park advertising, the press releases, the money off vouchers in newspapers and magazines? Where is the park website? Where is the dedicated coach and group bookings team? Why is there no attempt to make the park attractive and family-orientated? All the other similar seaside parks make this sort of effort, and are repaid by visitors measured in the millions, not the hundreds of thousands, and the entire resort benefits. This closure is nothing but an attempt to secure maximum development value for the site, and is completely contrary to every local and national planning policy. I will ask decision-makers at Thanet District Council to open their eyes and do not be fooled by these ill-conceived and damaging proposals."

Sunday, 9 February 2003

Press release issued to update the media on recent events.

Saturday, 8 February 2003

The closure of Dreamland was featured in today's Times newspaper in an article headed 'Death of a Seaside Dream'. Demonstrating the strength of feeling about the Godden/Stadium proposals for Dreamland, the article noted that "There hasn't been such a commotion in Margate since Cynthia Payne was rumbled for running a brothel here." Interviewed by the Times, owner Jimmy Godden threatened: "If the new complex doesn't happen, this site will be left derelict."

Reassuringly for the people and businesses of Margate, Council leader Richard Nicholson reportedly states that he is unhappy with Godden's proposals. "It should remain a leisure destination, although we know it will never compete with Thorpe Park or Chessington World of Adventures. We could say 'No' to Mr Godden, but that would mean Dreamland closing, so we hope we can compromise. We know that cheap flights have had a huge effect on British tourism."

In a completely unexplainable move, Councillor Iris Johnston reportedly accepts that development is "inevitable", but again, seemingly in a change of position, she states that she wants the Scenic Railway retained. She says: "One-fifth of all visitors to Thanet come for Dreamland so we want to offer them something similar. It's a question of compromise."

Save Dreamland Campaign Leader Nick Laister said: "We are getting very mixed messages from the Council here. I can confirm that Cllr Johnston is wrong. Development is not inevitable, that is what the new Local Plan states quite clearly. I am reassured that both councillors appear to want the Scenic Railway retained, and also seem to want to retain some form of amusement park on the site. I am, however, somewhat concerned about Cllr Nicholson's comments as he seems to be saying that he is willing to toss the Local Plan in the dustbin rather than say no to Mr Godden. Thanet District Council must not be bullied into accepting a development that is wrong for Margate."

Rides have already started to be moved from the Dreamland site. The Looping Star roller coaster, one of the most recognisable rides at the park over the last two years, is already being dismantled and will be moved to a park in Scotland. The Bounty swinging pirate ship ride is also to be dismantled over the next few weeks. The Scenic Railway will reopen this year, and work has already started replacing timber on the ride.

It was reported in the Thanet Times last week (28 January) that Jimmy Godden has said that he would consider gifting the Scenic Railway to Margate as long as somebody else pays for it to be relocated. North Thanet MP Roger Gale is now backing the plans, and believes the ride could be moved to the space between the Winter Gardens and Lido, although he acknowledges that that site might not be big enough.

Above: Going, going, gone. The Looping Star Roller Coaster, Dreamland, Margate.

Discuss this news in our new Save Dreamland Forum

Save Dreamland Campaign Leader, Nick Laister, expressed his surprise that Gale is backing these plans: "To move the Scenic Railway would be horrendously expensive, but I have much bigger concerns than that. It is a Grade II listed building; part of its historical importance is its association with the Dreamland site and Margate's main seafront area. As soon as it is dismantled, it ceases to be a listed building. If it ever was rebuilt - and I have serious doubts that it ever would be rebuilt once it is dismantled - it would no longer benefit from listed building protection and could therefore be demolished at any time."

Laister also expressed concern about the site proposed by Gale: "The site is away from the main amusement areas where families spend the day, so what future would the ride have? I also believe that the site is too small. I have spoken to officers at Thanet District Council and they are unable to think of another site in the town."

"Why are we even considering this", asks Laister: "Really, the question is: why move the Scenic Railway at all and take these risks? It is at a perfectly good site now; in fact, it is at the only site in Margate that is allocated in the Local Plan as an amusement park. The idea of moving it makes no sense - it is an ill-conceived plan and would, I believe, mean the end for the ride. It is pointless to move it from one site in Margate (which is allocated as an amusement park) to another site in Margate which isn't."

Laister believes that there are also practical reasons why the ride should not be moved: "There is a further big problem. It would be nearly impossible to move it without rebuilding the whole ride because of the terrain that it is sited on. The Scenic Railway station sits a lot higher than the other end of the ride so it could not be rebuilt on flat ground. The plan to move the ride is a red herring."

Friday, 7 February 2003

International theme park industry magazine Park World devotes a page to news of Dreamland's impending closure and to the Save Dreamland Campaign in its February 2003 issue, and provides some interesting revelations from owner Jimmy Godden. Under the headline "Two UK parks to close as owner opts to 'take life easier'", the article cites the "commercial value of the land" as one of the reasons that Jimmy Godden plans to close both Dreamland in Margate and the Rotunda in Ramsgate at the end of the 2003 season.

Interviewed by the magazine, Save Dreamland Campaign Leader Nick Laister explains that the Scenic Railway is one of several obstacles to Godden's plans: "When a structure is listed it is placed on a statutory list of buildings of 'special architectural or historic interest'...Now that the ride is listed, it will have to be demonstrated that nobody else would want to run some or all of the park. That is a requirement of PPG15, one of the national planning policy guidance notes on listed buildings. I think that will be very hard to prove."

In the interview, Godden surprisingly admits that if he were to sell either Dreamland or the Rotunda as a going concern, "The price I would sell at would have no bearing as to their true commercial development land value." He also reveals in the interview that his plans are a "purely commercial decision" and adds that "it may well be the start of things to come when you are looking at a lot of coastal amusement parks and their development values". Godden announces in the interview that he plans to keep amusements in Margate for the Easter, Whitsun and school summer holiday periods by inviting a travelling funfair onto one of the Dreamland car parks.

Giving his reaction to this revealing interview today, Nick Laister said: "I think that this demonstrates what we at the Save Dreamland Campaign already knew. The Dreamland proposals are nothing at all to do with improving Margate. They are to do with maximising the value of the site. Godden seems to almost admit that another operator might take the site on, but he would not get the same financial returns. I would love to sell my house, demolish it and build a huge block of flats in its place. But I can't because I couldn't get planning permission. It would be harmful to the area in which I live. The Dreamland case is just the same. The Local Plan explicitly states that the redevelopment of Dreamland will not be permitted. National Planning Policy Guidance also states that it should not be permitted. The people and businesses of Margate say it should not be permitted. Why is Thanet District Council entertaining this hugely damaging proposal by participating a public consultation that runs contrary to the results of its own democratic public consultation into the Local Plan carried out only last year? The Council should make it clear to Godden that - as the Local Plan clearly states - the site must stay as an amusement park." 

Thursday, 6 February 2003

The Save Dreamland Campaign was given extensive coverage in Tuesday's edition of the Thanet Times. With a headline 'You Will Halt Tourism Trade in its Tracks', the article was based around an interview with campaign leader Nick Laister. The article said: "A planning expert who played a key role in getting Margate's Scenic Railway listed has launched a one-man battle to save it. Nick Laister...fears the town's tourism industry would vanish overnight if Britain's oldest roller coaster is demolished to make way for a leisure complex." It went on to recognise the growing support for the Campaign locally, nationally and internationally, noting that a number of major organisations have signed up. It also set out some of the Campaign's plans to fight Dreamland's closure: "Nick insists the fate of Dreamland is far from sealed and aims to meet council planning officers to discuss the matter and set up a public meeting."

In the article, Nick Laister said that, despite the fact that much talking has gone on behind closed doors, the development is still contrary to the Local Plan. He added: "But planning policy is very much in our favour and the fact that the current owner has chosen to retire is irrelevant." The article set out Laister's vision for the site, which is that redevelopment takes place on part of the site, but with a percentage of the profits being ploughed back into maintaining and refurbishing the park and the roller coaster. Laister explained: "I accept that the current Dreamland is too big. I also accept that it has been run down over the years so you cannot expect visitor numbers to increase. But Margate simply cannot withstand the closure of its biggest tourist attraction."

Council leader Richard Nicholson responded to Laister's points by stating: "No final decisions have been made about the Dreamland site. We have been categorically told by Jimmy Godden that he intends to close the amusement park later this year, but what will go in its place will be open to public consultation and, subsequently, the planning process. The most important thing now is to ensure that whatever proposals are put forward for the Dreamland site will benefit the future economic prosperity of Margate."

The Campaign will now be focusing on explaining to elected decision-makers why the future economic prosperity of Margate depends entirely on having a major tourist attraction like Dreamland in the town. The Campaign will also start to make people more aware of planning policies at both the local and national level, all of which strongly resist the closure of Dreamland, and the demolition of the Scenic Railway. Speaking on Thursday evening, Nick Laister said: "What is important here is Margate's future as a seaside resort, and the retention of its most famous attraction. Clear planning policies have been drafted to ensure that Dreamland survives for the benefit of the town. One man should not be allowed to dictate a town's future, nor should his decisions be allowed to destroy a structure of such rarity and historic value. What does matter here is the views of the thousands of people who support this campaign and it is therefore important that the forthcoming public consultation is based on proper planning objectives in the development plan and national planning policy guidance. I say this to Councillor Nicholson: Don't throw away all the work your council has done on its Local Plan. Don't throw away your town's history. And, most importantly of all, don't throw away your town's prosperity." More soon.

Wednesday, 5 February 2003

'Trigger' from Only Fools and Horses joins the Save Dreamland Campaign. Actor Roger Lloyd Pack, who has been one of the main characters in the long-running BBC Television series for over twenty years, has offered his complete support to the campaign. Roger Lloyd Pack says:

"I support the campaign to save Dreamland unequivocally. An amusement park is far more important to Margate than another development or hotel. The needs of Margate should be respected more than filling the pockets of a greedy developer."

The 1989 Only Fools and Horses Christmas Special, 'Jolly Boy's Outing', was filmed in Margate and featured extensive footage of the cast enjoying Dreamland's attractions. 

Campaign leader Nick Laister said today: "It is great to have someone as popular and high profile as Roger on board with the Campaign. Roger's message to Margate's decision makers is a clear one, and I hope this will help to drive the message home. After all, both the adopted and emerging local plans say exactly the same thing. This is a message we will be discussing with council leaders over the coming weeks. "

Sunday, 2 February 2003

The Save Dreamland Campaign is covered in the February edition of, the online magazine for vintage fairground news, views and history. Click here for

If any member of the Save Dreamland Campaign has not been receiving member updates (there have been two so far), please contact us, and we will make sure that you are added to the mailing list.

Saturday, 1 February 2003

It seems that the Save Dreamland Campaign message is getting through to people at Thanet District Council. Council Leader Richard Nicholson, who to date has seemingly been supporting the change of use of the Dreamland site from amusement park/tourist attraction use to leisure and/or retail use (see below), has changed his tune. He is now saying that the site must include a visitor attraction, such as a water park, sea-life centre, ice rink or aquarium. Quoted in the Thanet Times earlier this week, he said: "Dreamland is the reason people come to Margate. It's no good replacing Dreamland with a leisure facility that people can find on their own doorstep."

Nick Laister said, "I am pleased that Cllr Nicholson has now accepted what we have been saying all along, that Dreamland is the reason people come to Margate, and that people won't visit if they find a supermarket or leisure facility on the site. It shows that our lobbying and campaigning is having an impact. But we still have a long way to go. The 12,000 supporters of this Campaign won't be happy until we can see that national and local planning policy is being properly followed. We still have no evidence that there isn't another operator who is prepared to acquire the site at its proper market value and invest in it as an amusement park and retain the Scenic Railway. Planning policy requires that the owner fully markets the site as a going concern before it is redeveloped. Therefore, that is the route Thanet District Council should require the owner to follow. They should also listen to the thousands of people in the town and elsewhere who don't believe that planning permission should be granted for use of the site to be changed. Our Campaign therefore continues!"

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