News: April 2003

Tuesday, 29 April 2003

Nick Laister and Sarah Vickery of the Save Dreamland Campaign meet with the Chief Executive, Director of Planning, Council Leader and Deputy Council Leader at Thanet District Council to discuss the Campaign's proposals for Dreamland. Campaign Leader, Nick Laister, said this morning:

"This was an extremely positive meeting. The Save Dreamland Campaign has been working with a major international theme park operator on proposals for the Dreamland site, and yesterday we presented these proposals to the Council. This operator has a vision for the Dreamland site that would change the site out of all recognition, and would be a major boost to the town's tourism economy." 

The meeting was an opportunity for the Save Dreamland Campaign to demonstrate that its proposals are realistic and viable: "We explained to the Council that the Campaign is not necessarily about saving all of Dreamland, but about achieving a quality development for the site, focused on a quality tourist attraction - ideally an amusement park of course - that builds on the town's and the site's heritage. The basis of our proposals are that the site continues to act as Thanet's major visitor draw, but provides a much better quality experience for tourists and residents alike. The Campaign believes that a comprehensive masterplan for the site is the way forward, potentially introducing new, complementary uses to the site, whether they be hotel, leisure and/or retail, with improved linkages with the rest of Margate. A theme park, potentially operated by the Company that we have been working with, would form part of that overall masterplan."

The Campaign provided information to the Council on the theme park chain that wants to operate the amusement park element of the redevelopment: "I think that the Council representatives at the meeting were genuinely excited that an operator of this calibre is seriously committed to Margate as a seaside resort, and as a tourist destination. We received a very positive reaction from the Council to our proposals for the site, but we are aware that there is still a lot of work to do to make sure that the proposals offer the best outcome for the town."

Laister said that the Campaign is committed to a continuing dialogue with the Council over the coming months: "We will be meeting the Council again in the next few weeks, with a senior representative of this theme park operator. The Council has now appointed consultants to undertake the masterplanning exercise for Margate and they have confirmed that the Save Dreamland Campaign, as an organisation representing numerous interests within and outside Thanet, will form a central part of this consultation process."

Sunday, 27 April 2003

The Dreamland site attracted a flurry of press coverage in the run-up to the weekend. Fridays Isle of Thanet Gazette had the headline: 'Tories vision for Dreamland'. The article stated:

"Leading Conservatives have been in Margate to spell out their vision for the Dreamland site. They say a world-class leisure, sport and retail complex can rise out of the charred remains of the seafront arcade fire and the amusement park. Kent County Council leader Sir Sandy Bruce-Lockhart joined North Thanet MP Roger Gale and district council Tory group leader Sandy Ezekiel for a tour of the area. Sir Sandy believes a 'wonderful opportunity' exists if a cash injection from the Government can be secured. 'This is a chance to create an exciting sport, leisure and retail complex linked with the revitalisation of the town centre,' he said. 'Margate is a wonderful historic town and we would be looking to work with internationally renowned designers.' Cllr Ezekiel believes that an ice rink, swimming pool, shops and sports facilities should occupy the site and wants the development to extend to the Arlington Arcade which sits below the tower block. He said: 'We want first-rate facilities here - those which will serve the local community as well as attracting thousands of people into our town.' But Mr Gale warned that the success of the coming summer season must be guaranteed before long-term projects are considered. 'We've got to look at how we can help the owners this year and after that we can think about the future,' he said."

Local Campaign Co-ordinator of the Save Dreamland Campaign, Sarah Vickery, commented: "The facilities that the Tories are suggesting for the Dreamland site might just attract thousands of people into our town. But that's not good enough. We need an attraction that will attract hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people. In coastal towns all around the country amusement parks have been proved to have pulling power: Adventure Island in Southend attracts 1.5 million visitors a year; Pleasureland in Southport 2.1 million; and the list goes on. Why bulldoze such potential in favour of a range of ordinary leisure facilities?"

Friday's Gazette also covered Thanet District Council's plans to scrap the current policy that protects the Dreamland site, under the headline 'Public fight for Dreamland':

"Campaigners trying to save Margate's Dreamland have urged supporters to write to Thanet District Council before a public consultation period about redevelopment ends next month. Save Dreamland Campaign Leader Nick Laister said: 'If we want to save Dreamland we must let the council know we are not happy about their u-turn on the Dreamland policy.' Mr Laister said the first draft of the local plan allowed only for a limited redevelopment of the site and that campaigners were happy with this. But after discussion with Dreamland owner Jimmy Godden, the council agreed to total redevelopment."

Friday's Thanet Extra newspaper also carried the Save Dreamland Campaign's call for people to object to the Council's U-turn on the Dreamland site. 'Write for Dreamland: Lobby council over park, families urged', ran the headline:

"Campaigners fighting to save Dreamland fun park and its Scenic Railway are urging supporters to write to Thanet District Council by May 9. They say there has been a change of policy by the council over whether the site should be protected as a tourist site or redeveloped. Campaign leader Nick Laister said: 'It is now never. We must tell the council we are not happy about their u-turn on the Dreamland policy.'"

Wednesday, 23 April 2003

Repairs are currently underway to the Scenic Railway roller coaster to prepare it for opening. The ride, which is expected to be operated for the season by the Conservative Group's 'Scenic Railway Preservation Trust' [click here for the Save Dreamland Campaign's formal position on this Trust], should be up and running by early May. The rest of Dreamland's rides are currently open, and are being operated by leading UK showman David Wallis. Rides are by token or wristband.

The Save Dreamland Campaign is featured in the latest edition of Coin Slot Magazine, the journal for the amusement arcade industry. The article, written by Chris Murphy and with the headline 'Dreamland sell-off meets with major opposition', states:

"Dreamland’s scenic railway: should it have been given listed status? A fight is underway to determine the future of the site of Margate’s Dreamland park. Owner Jimmy Godden is adamant that the decision to sell is final. There are others...who clearly disagree..."

The article includes an interview with Save Dreamland Campaign Leader Nick Laister.

Monday, 21 April 2003

Nick Laister and Sarah Vickery of the Save Dreamland Campaign are to meet with council leaders on 28 April. The meeting, with the Chief Executive, Director of Planning and Council Leader, is to discuss the Campaign's proposals for the future of the Dreamland site, which campaign members have been working on over the past few months. 

Sunday, 20 April 2003

“Now is the time to save Dreamland”, says Save Dreamland Campaign Leader Nick Laister, "but time is running out."

As previously reported on this site, the Revised Thanet Local Plan was published on 28th March for a six-week consultation period. Nick Laister says that if campaign members want to save Dreamland for the benefit of Margate's tourism industry, then this is the prime opportunity to let the Council know your views: 

“It is essential that everyone who wants to see Dreamland and the Scenic Railway survive must write to the Council before 9th May to object to the Revised Local Plan”. 

Laister says that the message from the Save Dreamland Campaign is simple:

“It is now or never. If we want to save Dreamland, we must let the Council know that we are not happy about their U-turn on the Dreamland policy. The First Draft of the Plan was published for consultation in 2001. This contained a policy that only allowed for the redevelopment of a limited part of the site, and even then only if it could be demonstrated that the development would ensure the future viability of the amusement park. The policy also stated that development which would lead to a reduction in the attractiveness or tourism potential of Dreamland would normally be resisted. This went out for public consultation, and the results of this consultation were that the policy was strengthened. The word “normally” was actually removed from the policy in December 2002. The Council also felt that allowing a ‘limited’ part of the site to be redeveloped was too much.”

Laister said that the Save Dreamland Campaign was happy with the policy as it stood at the start of 2003: “The policy recognised a lack of investment in the park from its current owner and stated that the Council believed that this would lead to pressure for the site’s redevelopment. The policy therefore provided the protection that was needed to ensure that this vastly important tourist attraction would remain for the benefit of Margate’s tourism economy. However, following a meeting with the owner of the site – who announced at the end of last year that he wanted to retire and have the site redeveloped for retail and leisure uses – the Council deleted this policy and replaced it with one that allows for the complete redevelopment of the site.”

Dreamland is home to the Scenic Railway, Britain’s oldest operating roller coaster and the country’s only listed amusement park ride. The loss of the 1920-built Scenic Railway, which is not expected to form part of the redevelopment proposals, would wipe out this part of the country’s heritage and one of Margate’s most recognisable symbols.

Local Campaign Coordinator, Sarah Vickery, who runs another of Margate’s leading tourist attractions, the Shell Grotto, said: “If Dreamland and the Scenic Railway are lost it will tear the heart out of Margate’s tourism industry. This town is irrevocably linked with the name of Dreamland and many tens of thousands of people come here every year to visit the park; these are visitors that we cannot afford to lose. In addition, the Scenic Railway is an internationally important structure and it would be absolutely criminal if were allowed it to be destroyed without a fight.”

Nick Laister added: “But the people of Margate, its visitors, and anybody who cares about Margate’s heritage and its future, can make a difference. You now have the chance to object to the replacement policy for Dreamland. If you agree with us that the previous policy should be reinstated, you must write to the Council before 9th May 2003 and say so.”

The Revised Plan can be viewed on the Internet at, or in any library in Thanet. There are special forms for objecting, which can be downloaded from the Council’s website or again picked up from libraries or the Council buildings in Margate.

Friday, 18 April 2003

The new issue of First Drop, the magazine of the European Coaster Club, features a major article on Dreamland and the Scenic Railway, called 'Dreamland in Danger'. The article leads with a call for support from Campaign Leader Nick Laister: "With your help, I believe that we can make a difference. If you join the Campaign (which is free) you will receive regular updates and at key stages in the planning process you will be notified about what you can do to help." The article features short articles and comments on the potential loss of Dreamland and the Scenic Railway from Club members from around the world, demonstrating clearly the strength of international feeling about this important heritage site. The extensive feature, which runs across four pages, also features rare photographs of the Scenic Railway and the rest of the park taken between the 1920s and the present day.


Thursday, 17 April 2003

The April 2003 issue of Antique Amusement Magazine features the Save Dreamland Campaign extensively. Under the headline 'Save Dreamland!', the magazine updates progress with the Campaign, reporting that Only Fools and Horses 'Trigger' star Roger Lloyd Pack has backed the campaign, and the many new organisations that are now signed-up members. The magazine also previews the forthcoming Save Dreamland Convention on 1 June 2003.

Wednesday, 16 April 2003

Extensive coverage of the Save Dreamland Campaign is given by the 17 April edition of amusement trade newspaper World's Fair. The front page article by Desmond Fitzgerald reports the recent fire at Margate under the headline of 'South Coast fires continue with flames at Dreamland'. The article reports:

"At its height the burning embers were said to be close to the listed 1920 wooden Scenic Railway roller coaster, which has of course been the rallying point for the campaign to save the park."

The article also covers progress with the Save Dreamland Campaign:

"The fire comes at a time when Dreamland, just like the Brighton piers, is already under the international media spotlight, with a popular campaign spearheaded by planning expert and park historian Nick Laister as previously reported in these pages...Meanwhile the Fairground Association of Great Britain has added its name to the growing band of supporters that already includes the Roller Coaster Club of Great Britain."

The support of the FAGB was "following unanimous agreement at the recent committee meeting, held at Kings Lynn Mart". The World's Fair promises to bring readers further reports from Dreamland on the campaign to save the park in future issues.

Elsewhere in issue, the newspaper covers the change in date of the Save Dreamland Convention, to allow for an expansion in the programme.

Tuesday, 15 April 2003

The Fairground Mercury, the quarterly journal of the Fairground Association of Great Britain, includes an article on the Save Dreamland Campaign written by Campaign Leader Nick Laister called 'Save our Scenic Railway'. The article sets out the background to the Save Dreamland Campaign, how and why it was set up, and what its aims are. It also includes a history of Dreamland and the Scenic Railway. Laister discusses the obstacles that the owner will have to cross before dismantling the Scenic Railway:

"If the Council doesn't pay proper attention to the historical importance of the ride, then the Secretary of State can call the decision in for his attention."

Wednesday, 9 April 2003

The Roller Coaster Club of Great Britain's magazine Airtime (Issue 39) features coverage of the Save Dreamland Camoaign on its back page. The article quotes Campain Leader Nick Laister:

"There is a lot we can do to save both the park and the ride. The prime aim is to save both, and keep the Scenic Railway in its existing location. If it is moved, its future becomes less secure because it would not be protected by its listed building status."

Tuesday, 8 April 2003

The Fairground Association of Great Britain today issues a press release pledging its support for the Save Dreamland Campaign. The statement issued by the Association's Secretary, Desmond Fitzgerald, states:

"Following unanimous agreement at the recent committee meeting, held at Kings Lynn Mart on 22 February 2003 the FAGB made a statement in the following terms:

'Dreamland at Margate is a central part of our funfair and amusement heritage; it is a place where there has always been the great mix of traditional and innovative attractions in its long history. We feel that it is important that it survives to bring pleasure to new generations along with an insight to the development of great rides, with the finest example, the scenic railway at its centre.'

We fully support the campaign to ensure that Dreamland, with its great past and its present hope, has a future”.

For more information on the Fairground Association of Great Britain, visit the organisation's website:

Sunday, 6 April 2003

Kent on Sunday features a full page article on the Save Dreamland Campaign under the headline, 'Park closure will hit resort'. The newspaper reports that the park will open for one last season under David Wallis, and details Godden's redevelopment plans:

"Dreamland has brought tourists flocking to Margate throughout its life and the amusement park is particularly popular with Londoners. Locals and campaigners fear tourism will virtually die out in the seaside resort if the town's major attraction is closed. A spokesperson for Thanet District Council said one-fifth of the visitors to the town name Dreamland as the reason for their trip. The council believes the area must have a major attraction to continue to attract visitors. 

"Nick Laister, leader of the Save Dreamland Campaign, said: "The future of Margate as a seaside resort depends on Dreamland. It has been run down over the years but even in its run-down state it needs to be saved. A number of operators have expressed a serious interest in buying it but unfortunately they are not in a position to offer as much money as a giant company planning a retail and leisure park." 

"Nick, a planning consultant holds Dreamland dear to his heart. While he is not a local man he is passionate about amusement parks and led the move to get Dreamlands scenic railway, the oldest operating roller coaster in the country, listed. "When I started the process of trying to get the scenic railway listed I had no idea the owner was planning to sell it. The scenic railway is of major international importance and we need to preserve it. Closing Dreamland would be the final nail in the coffin for Margate as a tourist resort," he said. His view is reiterated by the 13,000 people supporting the campaign."

The article goes on to list the Campaign's supporters, which include the European Coaster Club, Roller Coaster Club of Great Britain and the American Coaster Enthusiasts, as well as local organisations such as the Margate Civic Society and Margate Hotel and Guest House Association. The article also included information on Dreamland's history and provided details of the Save Dreamland Convention on 1 June.

Saturday, 5 April 2003

Yesterday's Isle of Thanet Gazette carried four Dreamland-related stories. The first was under the headline 'Dreamland Gains Euro Interest, Bosses impressed claims campaigner'. The news item stated: 

"European fun park operators have visited Dreamland in a bid to take over the site. The businessmen were shown around the park and are said to be impressed with the venue. Nick Laister of the Save Dreamland Campaign said: 'It is quite clear that the developers, Stadium, did not realise there would be such an outcry about Margate and this tourist attraction. We were on site with probably Europe’s premier operators of theme parks and they said they would like to move forward with this site. We know that the site is viable and there are major operators wanting to take it on and invest in it.'"

The second story provides further information about the park's operator for the 2003 season, David Wallis, with the headline 'Park boss brings family tradition to final season'. The article stated: 

"New rides, a lick of paint and colourful flowers are helping to spruce up Dreamland in time for its final season. And 54 staff have been recruited by the new manager. David Wallis, of Carousel Fun Ltd, is determined the fun park will be a success in its final weeks. It has been leased to the company although Dreamland Leisure Ltd is retaining the arcades and other interests in Margate. Mr Wallis said: 'We’re going to make it a lot brighter, with music creating more atmosphere. There will be rides coming in to swap and change and keep it looking vibrant and exciting.'"

The new operator, however, would seem to agree with the Save Dreamland Campaign that an amusement park on the site would be viable and could be a great asset to the town, further undermining the reasons given to Thanet District Council for closing Dreamland by the park's current owner. The article states:

"He reckons Dreamland still has potential as a going concern. 'If it was a long-term contract we could do things, but as it is, there is a lot of give and take. The way the fairground is positioned wouldn’t be my choice but the rides have been like that for two or three years. If it was more than a year I would have a change.' He said the park would offer a 'good variety' of rides after fears that the loss of the Looping Star would deter visitors. Among the rides available are the Waltzer, dodgems, galloping horses and the Sombrero. The Blue Bullet is a family rollercoaster; and also featured are the Ali Baba magic carpet and the Revolution Rotator. Many are portable fairground rides. Wristband prices are reduced to £10 for entry to all the rides."

The third story provided an update on the Local Conservative Group's plans to set up a trust to remove the Scenic Railway from the site, a move that is not supported by the Save Dreamland Campaign. The article states:

"The Tories are waiting to see if they are successful in their bid for charitable trust status with North Thanet MP Roger Gale as patron. Thanet Tory chief Cllr Sandy Ezekiel said: 'We are working as hard and fast as we can. We are going to open up a company as an arm of the charitable trust but we cannot set up a charitable trust overnight. We are still doing everything possible to keep the Scenic Railway open for some of the season. It’s going to be run by enthusiasts and we would hope that there would be no cost to the people of Thanet and any profit would be ploughed back to the town.'"

The fourth story related to Thanet District Council's recently-mounted court action against Dreamland owner Jimmy Godden over Ramsgate's Pleasurama Amusement Park site.

Friday, 4 April 2003

A massive fire has destroyed Mr Gs Amusement Arcade on Margate Seafront, as well as doing what looks like irreparable damage to the neighbouring Funland Arcade. These arcades back onto the Dreamland site. Mr G’s is owned by Jimmy Godden, the owner of Dreamland. This is devastating news for Margate, happening as it has on the most prominent frontage in the town, destroying a number of historic Georgian facades as well as two arcades, and all this just as the holiday season is starting. However, we can report that although the fire was only metres away from the Scenic Railway, the ride was untouched by the fire. Click here for a full report from Local Campaign Coordinator Sarah Vickery. Click here for exclusive photographs of the devastating fire.

Tuesday, 1 April 2003

News reached the Campaign that Dreamland is to open for the 2003 season on 12th April. The remaining rides will be complimented by new rides provided by showman David Wallis. It is not yet known when the Scenic Railway will open, but it is unlikely to be open in April.

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