News: January 2006

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 internationally-important Scenic Railway ride.

Click here for the latest news

Tuesday, 31 January 2006

Dreamland has received extensive coverage over the past couple of weeks in the amusement park industry trade journals. World's Fair newspaper featured a long article two weeks ago on the listed building demolition applications and another feature last week on the Local Plan policy for Dreamland. In addition, theme park trade magazine Park World featured a report on Dreamland and the positive inspector's report  under the headline 'Dreamland must remain an amusement park'.

Saturday, 28 January 2006

Dreamland was back on the front page of yesterday's Isle of Thanet Gazette, as the newspaper launched 'The Great Dreamland Debate'.

The newspaper has published a questionnaire which can be completed and returned in the post. Questions include: "Do you think the whole Dreamland site should be kept as a theme park?"; "Do you think Thanet council is wrong to consider other uses apart from a theme park?"; and "Do you think people campaigning to save Dreamland are living in the past?"

The questionnaire can be completed online at the newspaper's website: Plus you can also post your views on a new Dreamland message board at the same web address.

Friday, 27 January 2006

Two articles on Dreamland appear in the Thanet Extra, as the backlash against the Conservative councillors gains momentum.

On Page 7, the Extra reports that the Thanet District Council Labour group is now jumping on board the campaign to save Dreamland.

Tuesday, 24 January 2006

Today's Thanet Times includes a detailed report of the recent council vote on Dreamland, along with comments from some members of the public.

The following comments from the public accompanied today's article :
Annabel Lucas, 20, from Margate said : " I think a theme park should be given a chance, a decent park could make a success. Building houses would make money for Margate in the short term but I think a theme park would make more money in the long term."
Alex Vara de Ray, 36, from Broadstairs said : " Thanet doesn't need any more houses, the Dreamland site should definitely not have houses built on it. The site has a great heritage as a theme park and I believe a new park would work if it is given a decent chance."
Mick Minster, 58, from Margate said : " Margate is changing, the people that used to enjoy Dreamland don't come here anymore so I don't think a theme park would work. I don't think we need any more houses but if houses are built they would see and make money for Margate."


Sunday, 22 January 2006

The backlash against Thanet District Council has begun. From Friday's Extra:

Rollercoaster ride for Dreamland plans

Not amused: Campaigners angry at council's stance over amusement park

Margate fudge is on the menu for Dreamland, say campaigners angered at Thanet Council's plans for the site.

A Government inspector has ruled that Dreamland should remain an amusement park, in contrast to TDC's Local Plan. However, the council does not have to abide by this and its plan to partially disagree has already come under fire.

Sarah Vickery, who runs Margate's Shell Grotto and is part of the Save Dreamland Campaign, said: "It is a fudge. They have done this so it seems as if they have listened to the inspector so as to lessen the chance of it getting called in.

"The thing that runs through the document is that they don't seem to think Dreamland is viable, when we have letters from amusement park owners saying it is."

The suggestion of TDC's strategic planning manager, which went before full council yesterday, says: "Policy supports investment in the site as an amusement park and continuation of such use if viable and sustainable."

However, it goes on: "If the amusement park is found not to be viable and sustainable then alternative leisure uses will be explored. A residential development may also be appropriate on the site."

It also agrees that some retail can be built at Dreamland and says a new road must be driven round the back to take traffic on [sic] Marine Terrace.

In a letter to councillors, Nick Laister of the Save Dreamland Campaign, points out: "How can the council realistically expect the amusement park to have any hope of remaining under Option C [the chosen option], where the carrot of redevelopment is dangled in front of the owner?"

And this from today's Kent on Sunday:

Dreamland's future still in the balance

AT LEAST some of the site of Dreamland Pleasure Park will be kept for leisure use, councillors have pledged.

But Thanet District Council revealed that may not necessarily mean the historic Margate site will remain a theme park.

In November, an independent planning inspector recommended that Dreamland should be saved, along with its Grade Two-listed rollercoaster, the Scenic Railway.

However, following a meeting on Thursday night, Cllr John Kirby, Thanet council’s cabinet member for development, said it may not be "realistic" to keep an amusement park.

And he said councillors might eventually decide that the land would be better developed in "other ways".

He said: "We have taken on board the inspector's comments that specific proposals need to be set out in the Local Plan for this site, which will mean that everyone is clear about exactly what type of development will be permitted here.

"What is clear is that the council does want to see Dreamland remaining in leisure use, whilst providing a year-round destination for both our residents and our visitors."

But Cllr Kirby added: "We need to be realistic. We are aiming to put in place a policy that allows the site’s potential to be maximised. If it can be proved that an amusement park will not be viable, then we have to look at other ways to get the best from this site.

"There is no timeframe up for discussion, but what we have always said is that we do not want Dreamland to become derelict - it is too important to the future of Margate and the future of Thanet as a whole. We are not prepared to accept development of any kind -filling the site with homes or shops is not acceptable.

"We want to see a leisure use on the site and one that can benefit the whole area by drawing people in. That may well prove to be an amusement park, but this policy gives us the opportunity to look at other potential leisure uses if that does not prove to be sustainable."

Dave Collard, of the Save Dreamland Campaign, said he was not surprised by the outcome of the council meeting, but was confident the site would remain a theme park.

"It’s not really a huge blow," he said on Friday. "There’s still a lot of steps that can be taken. It’s a shame the issue wasn’t resolved last night, but this has been going on for three years now and it's far from over."

Friday, 20 January 2006

Thanet District Council has taken the very disappointing step of rejecting the recommendations of the independent government inspector, who had stated that Dreamland must be protected. Following a close vote at last night's meeting at the Council's Cecil Street offices, Thanet District Council is now pressing ahead with a Local Plan policy that will allow for Dreamland to be redeveloped.

Following the strong conclusions of the Inspector's Report, published in November 2005, campaigners had hoped and expected that Thanet District Council would change its Local Plan policy to protect Dreamland in the same way that other councils do with their major tourist attractions.

The Council officer presented three options to councillors:

Option A: To reject the Inspector's recommendations and adopt the policy as it stood.
Option B: To accept the Inspector's recommendations and change the policy to protect Dreamland.
Option C: To partially reject the Inspector's recommendations, allowing Dreamland to be redeveloped if an amusement park is not viable.

Campaign Coordinator Sarah Vickery attended the Inquiry with a sizeable group of Campaign supporters:

"The Labour group, in its entirety, voted in favour of Option B. The Conservative group voted for Option C. And as the Conservatives hold the sway of power here - just! - that means Option C was adopted.

"However, we now have the public consultation period and the Campaign will also be working to get this decision called in by the Secretary of State."

The revised policy for Dreamland will be published shortly, and everybody will get six weeks to comment on it.

Sarah continues:

"There was an opportunity to clear up the uncertainty last night, but the Council - or, to be more accurate, our ruling Conservative group - chose not to take it."

Campaign Leader, Nick Laister, says that there is still a lot to fight for:

"Clearly it is very disappointing that the Council chose not to listen to either its own residents and businesses - who had overwhelmingly voted to retain Dreamland - or to the recommendations of the independent government inspector. I know that I have received a large volume of messages from local people who feel very let down by the Council, particularly the Conservative group. This is one of the most blatant examples I have seen of a council ignoring the results of its own consultations, especially where the views of those who got involved in the consultations were entirely backed up by an inspector.

"Because the Council is changing the policy, it cannot be adopted without further public consultation. I am sure that, with the backing of the Inspector's Report, many people will now want to make their views known.

"I am afraid that the Policy that the Council is now pressing ahead with leaves us with all the uncertainty that the Inspector had been so critical of. From the quotes in the media, it appears that this does not concern several Conservative councillors. With the policy allowing for the redevelopment of Dreamland (and therefore - as the Inspector pointed out - higher land values), there can now be absolutely no prospect of a serious investment in the amusement park. The sort of investment that has been offered by established UK and European park operators will need a long-term commitment in the site. I am afraid that the Council must now accept that the best they can expect is a travelling fair pulling onto the site for a season or two, before other forms of development are allowed onto the site. With this policy, the Conservative group will be virtually wiping out any prospect of a major visitor attraction for Margate in the future.

"I know that our members feel very betrayed. We will most definitely fight on!"

The news is covered on the BBC News website.

Today's Gazette made reference to last night's Dreamland vote.

Wednesday, 18 January 2006

As anticipation builds for Thursday evening's council vote on Dreamland, the Thanet Times provides a preview of the meeting.

Sunday, 15 January 2006

Councillors at Thanet District Council are being asked to reject the Local Plan Inquiry Inspector's recommendations on Dreamland, which stated that the amusement park must be retained.

The Save Dreamland Campaign celebrated on 17 November 2005, when the independent government inspector decided that Dreamland must remain an amusement park and the Scenic Railway should be protected.

Campaign Leader, Nick Laister, explains:

"The Inspector had heard our evidence at the Public Inquiry in June 2004, and that of the Council. We were objecting to the Council changing the Local Plan policy for Dreamland from one which protected the site to one which allowed it to be redeveloped (a change they made after a private meeting with the site’s owner). The Council had maintained that Dreamland was no longer viable and were happy to allow the site to be redeveloped for other uses. In his report, the Inspector accepted every single one of the points we made at the Inquiry and rejected virtually every point made by the Council and the site’s owner."

To read a summary of the Inspector’s Report, or the whole report itself, click here.

Nick Laister continues:

"Unfortunately, as I pointed out at the time, the Inspector’s Report is not binding on the Council. The Council can decide to reject the Inspector’s recommendations if it wishes. Clearly, we all hoped that the Council would accept the recommendations, especially after so many people objected to the Council’s last-minute change to the Local Plan. Well, the big day has now arrived, where councillors have to decide."

Councillors will be discussing the Inspector’s recommendations on Dreamland at an Extraordinary Council Meeting at 7.30pm on 19 January. They will then take a vote on whether to accept or reject the Inspector’s recommendations.

The Planning Policy Manager's report to this council meeting has now been published. In this report, the Planning Policy Manager has recommended that the council partially rejects the Inspector’s recommendations.

Nick Laister explains:

"The officer describes the Inspector as ‘naïve’ and he also states that he believes that Dreamland is no longer viable. He thinks that to protect Dreamland as an amusement park would be a missed opportunity. This is despite what the Inspector said (that Dreamland is the biggest attraction in the area; that its problems are down to management; that other operators are seriously interested in taking it on; that the Council’s policy has resulted in the owner’s aspirations for redevelopment to be unrealistically increased; that the Scenic Railway is an “extraordinary building” and should be protected; that only an amusement park can preserve its setting; and that the policy should be changed to protect the amusement park)."

For some reason, the Council has not placed the officer's report on its website. We have therefore made it available ourselves. The report is split into three parts (all Microsoft Word format):

Nick Laister continues:

"I am, of course, extremely disappointed by this report. I have drafted a letter from the Save Dreamland Campaign, which I am going to send to each councillor. You can view my letter by clicking here."

If any local members are unhappy about this and want to see the Inspector’s recommendations accepted by the Council, you can write to your councillor and tell him or her what you think about this. All of Thanet’s district councillors should be attending this meeting. Their contact details are here (some have email addresses). You should let your local councillor know what you think. If you don't know which councillor represents your ward, click here. Alternatively you can inform the Council Leader (Sandy Ezekiel) or the Cabinet Member with responsibility for planning (John Kirby) of your views. The councillors representing Margate Central, where Dreamland is located, are detailed here.

Friday, 13 January 2006

This week's Thanet Extra carries a half-page story about the proposed demolitions on the site.

Tuesday, 10 January 2006

The Save Dreamland Campaign today issued a letter to Thanet District Council objecting to the applications for listed building and conservation area consent to demolish several buildings at Dreamland. The letter can be downloaded in PDF format by clicking here. You can also keep up-to-date with any current or future applications on our new Applications Page.

Friday, 6 January 2005

Lots of coverage for Dreamland in today's Thanet Gazette. From the Front Page:

Dreamland : You decide
The owners of the Dreamland fun park in Margate have pledged to ask local people what they think should happen to the site in a public consultation this year. The Margate Town Centre Development Company has lodged plans with Thanet council to demolish some of the old buildings on the seafront plot. Managing director Toby Hunter said they were still in negotiation over the fun park's future and that it would open again this summer.

The main article:

Rollercoasters to return to revamped Dreamland
A refurbished cinema, a new theme park operator and a walkway to the seafront are all planned for Margate's Dreamland site. Owners the Margate Town Centre Regeneration Company Limited (MTRCL) also plan a major public consultation to learn from residents and visitors what they would like to see at the landmark plot.
It has submitted five applications to Thanet council to demolish buildings there, but chairman Toby Hunter insists this is not the beginning of the end for the tourist attraction. Instead the "redundant" buildings will free up more space at the site to help turn it into a desirable destination for the town.
The site is owned by MTRCL and its controlling company Waterbridge. They want to knock down Belgrave House, which was used as offices, and the former Bualuang Thai restaurant, both in Belgrave Road. Three buildings, including a former amusement arcade connected to the Scenic Railway, are also favourites for demolition. The council is keen to keep at least two buildings which it deems are of architectural and historic interest, but has no objection to the other three going.
Despite the demolition work, Mr Hunter insists he has no firm plans for the main site, which MTRCL took over in May last year. Documents relating to the applications show the group hopes it can be used for a "mix of traditional and innovative uses", and to provide a "new leisure destination in Margate", to remain open beyond the traditional summer season. Last year it submitted a "master brief" to the council outlining what form that could take, but Mr Hunter said that was never intended to be the definitive scheme. No firm plans will be drawn up until the results of a public consultation, due to start in March, are known.
He said: "We thought we would have a discussion with the town. We intend to talk to locals and tourists, standing on the streets with clipboards. I have people writing to me saying "I think Dreamland would make a world-class tennis centre.
"I think it will be great to get people's views so when we go to the council we are not submitting some out-of-the-area developer's plan."
Short-term plans for the site include protecting the Scenic Railway and the cinema. Last year there were doubts over the twin-screen's future after operator Reeltime Cinemas warned its lease may not be renewed. It has continued running the cinema after negotiating a lower rent and is in talks with MTRCL about refurbishing it. Plans include reducing the 700-seater capacity by installing new seats to create more legroom, at a cost of £200,000.
"It needs total refurbishing, we've got to make sure we've got a viable scheme there. It is not as comfortable as it could be," Mr Hunter said.
He is also in discussions with "a couple of parties" about running Dreamland as a fun park for the next three years, starting this summer. Last year, Essex-based showman Harry Ayers ran it. Mr Hunter hopes a different operator can be found to run it this summer, with longer opening hours.
"The theme park will definitely be open in some form", he promised.
Visitors will be able to park in an extended pay-and-display car park off Belgrave Road. A short cut to the beach will be created, through the empty site of the former Mr G's arcade in Marine Terrace which burnt down in 2003. There are no plans at present to rebuild on the site.

From the Page 6 Editorial:

It's vital to join Dreamland talks
If there's anything guaranteed to provoke a row. it's discussions over the landmark Dreamland site in Margate. There are those who remember its glory days as the town's flagship attraction and wish to see a return to those heady times. There are those who say the clock can't be turned back and the way forward is to use the site for a modern development to suit modern visitors. Whatever their view, many have strong opinions. So it is good news Dreamland's owners seem to be prepared to listen. For too many years there have been questions over its future. If local people are able to have their say on what that may be, that can only be a good thing. We at the Gazette cannot be the only ones who welcome the public consultation
Let us hope owners Margate Town Centre Regeneration Company Ltd and controlling company Waterbridge are not just making the right noises, but will ultimately make the right decision for the town and its residents.

Save Dreamland Campaign Leader, Nick Laister, says:

"It is good to see all this coverage about Dreamland and I hope that our members will continue to get involved in the ongoing debate. I am, however, surprised that the Gazette has not acknowledged the position of most of the members of the Save Dreamland Campaign in this debate. This Campaign is not about wanting to return to Dreamland's "glory days", as the Gazette calls it. Nor is it about wanting to see a "modern development to suit modern visitors" (whatever that may mean). This Campaign is about removing all of this uncertainty and seeing Dreamland flourish as an up-to-date, attractive family amusement park that will attract people to the town from across the region. It is about regenerating Margate in a way that has been so successful elsewhere. It is not about houses or shops or sports centres, developments that will not attract people to the town."

"And whilst I believe consultation is a good thing, I think that people can have too much of it. I think that, where Dreamland is concerned, we might be reaching consultation overload. We have been consulted over the use of Dreamland as part of the Local Plan consultation (which is the correct forum to consult people over land uses). That resulted in a huge number of responses, overwhelmingly asking for Dreamland to be protected as an amusement park. This has recently been sanctioned by an independent inspector. There was also the recent consultation into the Margate Masterplan. More responses were received about Dreamland than any other issue in the plan, and again the vast majority were asking for Dreamland to remain an amusement park."

"As far as I am concerned, the consultation is now over. So many hundreds of people have made it clear what they want to see. Over and over again. What people now want is action, not more consultation. It is now in the hands of the Council to ensure that the Local Plan is modified in the way that the people of Thanet, its visitors and an independent Inspector have all asked for. Then Margate can start looking to the future again."

Thursday, 5 January 2006

Some further media coverage for the Inspector's Report. ACE News Now is the online newspaper of the American Coaster Enthusiasts, who report the following:

Good News For Scenic Railway and Dreamland

The historic seaside park in Margate, Kent, in the UK has been handed an important victory in its struggle to remain standing and operating. An independent government inspector has rejected the recommendation of the Thanet Council, which had previously ruled that the Dreamland site should be completely redeveloped. Citing the Grade II listing (the equivalent of historic landmark status in the US) of the Scenic Railway, the oldest roller coaster in the United Kingdom, and that of other structures in the park, an order to cease the implementation of redevelopment plans was issued. This turn of events can be credited in large part to the work of the Save Dreamland Campaign, headed by historian Nick Laister. Demolition had in fact begun on some of Dreamland's non-listed structures in early November, but has since stopped pending the next step in what will hopefully be a successful preservation effort. While the order is temporary and non-binding, as the Thanet Council could choose to go against the recommendation, public awareness and support have greatly increased over the last several months thanks to the efforts of the Campaign and much positive media coverage. More news on Dreamland will appear as it is received.

Wednesday, 4 January 2006

Margate Town Centre Regeneration Company Ltd (MTCRC), the owner of Dreamland Fun Park, has submitted applications to Thanet District Council for the demolition of five buildings in Dreamland.

Three applications for listed building consent have been submitted. These are for: the 'Park Amusements' building (formerly the buffet, pictured top right); the 'Bungalow' (formerly a toilet block, pictured bottom right); and the 'Top Sub Station' (adjacent to the Bungalow). Two applications for conservation area consent have been submitted. These are for: the former restaurant, 11-14 Belgrave Road; and Belgrave House. Both are adjacent to the Belgrave Road entrance to Dreamland.

Campaign Leader, Nick Laister, said:

Under threat: Click on above images for larger photograph.

"Park Amusements, the Bungalow and the Sub-Station are all listed buildings because they fall within the curtilage of the Scenic Railway and were built before 1948. That is why listed building applications have been submitted for their demolition. However, I am surprised that MTCRC has submitted these applications at this early stage, before the future of the site has been decided. The Adopted Thanet Local Plan states that there has to be a 'special overriding justification' for the demolition of a listed building. The only justification they have given is to assist with short-term management of the site, which can hardly be considered overriding."

"National listed buildings policy in PPG15 also requires that efforts are made to incorporate the building into any redevelopment plans. As we don't have any plans yet, I cannot see how this requirement can be met. In addition, very few of the other 'tests' in PPG15 have been undertaken, so I don't see how Thanet District Council could grant listed building consent."

"We also now have the Inspector's Report into the Revised Thanet Local Plan. This states that the site must remain an amusement park. These buildings may well be required in the future as part of a regenerated Dreamland. It would be unwise to allow them to be demolished at this stage."

"The two other buildings are not really part of the park, but stand on the perimeter of the property and fall within the Conservation Area. The Thanet Local Plan clearly states that the Council will only consider granting consent for demolition where there are acceptable and detailed plans for the redevelopment. This is clearly not the case here."

"It may well be that in future, when plans for the revamped amusement park are finalised, some or even all of these buildings may be demolished (although I would be very sorry to see the Park Amusements building go, as it is of architectural and historic interest and worthy of a listing on its own merits). The main point is that we simply do not know at this stage. I hope that these applications are therefore refused."

The applications and supporting information can be downloaded from Just type "Dreamland" into the Street Name search box. The five applications are all dated 29 December 2005. Once you have opened the Case File, you can view the application forms, plans, supporting statement and photographs. You can also make representations to the Council by clicking the "Comment on the Application" button.

If you have any questions regarding these applications, email Nick Laister, who will do his best to help.