News: February 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

Sunday, 26 February 2006

Writer Anthony Frewin has joined the Campaign, saying: "I couldn't believe how diminished Dreamland was when I went back some years ago, compared with how I knew it in the early 1970s (I worked there for a summer season in 1972). It's hard to envisage what the local council see as Margate's future if the site is to be re-developed for housing."

Frewin was assistant to the film director Stanley Kubrick for over 25 years.

He recently wrote the screenplay for the John Malkovich film Colour Me Kubrick and his second novel, Scorpian Rising, is largely set in Margate. (Click here for details of Scorpian Rising on, or here for a full list of his published books).

Click here for Anthony's IMDB biography.

Friday, 24 February 2006

There is extensive coverage of the campaign to save Dreamland in today's Isle of Thanet Gazette. Firstly, a statement from Waterbridge boss Toby Hunter.

Dreamland owner answers critics

In his first full public statement Dreamland owner Toby Hunter bids to set the record straight. He tells Gazette readers about his commitment to Margate and plans for the site's future, and blasts his detractors, including the Save Dreamland pressure group. Read his controversial comments in full today.

I have been very interested to read the many, quite conflicting views on the future of Margate and the future of Dreamland.

Firstly, my company Waterbridge, along with a co-investing partner company, acquired the Dreamland site midway through last year. This was only shortly before the 2005 season, and for 2006, I am looking for rides and events to put on the park and welcome any sensible suggestions.
We will start a public debate about the sort of development we would like to see at the site and, hopefully, as many people as possible will come forward. What we don't want, though, is for this activity to be dominated by the vocal minority (who probably don't even live in Margate) but to encourage the more thoughtful majority to air long-term proposals for Margate and Dreamland.
This would be a useful point at which to clear up a few things.

Jim Godden is a shareholder of MTCRC, but he does not control the company and does not manage the company. His financial interest ranks after mine and my partners. He does, however, know a considerable amount about the funfair world. And his contacts are numerous - these may be useful in the future. Therefore, I welcome Jim's knowledge and investment in MTCRC.

We, as owners of the site, have not submitted any applications to the local planning authority, nor have we formed any plans to build specific-use types, i.e. shops, residential, etc. We will only submit plans to the relevant authorities when we have carried out a full consultation, and have dates [sic] to hand that give us information on various profiles for leisure in Margate, Britain and Europe. And when we have been able to consider an analysis of the profit and cash flow forecasts for World Class resort destinations.

It would be very imprudent to consider developing or investing in a loss-making business – ultimately this would lead to financial failure – with consequences for the town. The positive consequences, however, of investing in a profitable business are very good news for Margate and the surrounding area.

The local authority and Kent County Council are, contrary to some opinion, being very supportive of the local area and Margate. The Turner centre, which seems to evoke mixed feelings along the local community, is a massive injection of pride and money into Thanet. And I welcome this investment as a sign of the commitment to lifting standards generally around the island.

Save Dreamland Campaign has not invested a single penny into Margate – but it makes a lot of noise. I would welcome any effort this campaign can make towards investing in Margate.
Ultimately, regeneration can only happen through investment. My business partner and I have, so far, invested £9.5 million in Margate and I intend to invest more. If there are other significant investors following the Dreamland debate who would be interested in investing in Margate, then please contact me.

Phil Miller had several years to offer the sort of money Jim Godden wanted for the site – he was unable to propose a deal that was successful. We did and we were therefore successful. Therefore, the future of Dreamland rests with ourselves and the local authority.

We intend to act in the best interests of Margate and deliver sustainable development that will be a source of pride to my company, the town of Margate and all who work in Dreamland.

If you have recently visited the site, you will notice the pay and display machines – a safe and transparent system of parking – installed in the summer of 2005. You will notice the site is generally clean, and a number of redundant buildings have been removed to relieve the feeling of neglect that has been on the park for some time. We will be opening a larger beach access through to the beach front, completion of this should be by summer 2006 season. Initial discussions have started with the cinema operator to provide better seating and upgrade the vision and sound facilities. We have also slashed the cinema’s rent in order that the company can continue to trade from Margate.
And we are about to start installing token machines and electrical safety gear for the rides and equipment we want on the park in 2006.

It is, again, our aim to raise the standards and simplicity and enjoyment of a visit to Margate and Dreamland in 2006.

I would like to thank everyone for their interest in Margate and, more specifically, Dreamland. Let’s keep opinions open and constructive and then we will go forward.

Protest group says town wants to keep park

Action group Save Dreamland has pledged to take to the streets of Margate to ensure townspeople’s views are made known to Thanet council. The campaigners will launch a public consultation, asking whether the council was right to reject the independent Government inspector’s recommendation that Dreamland be protected.

Save Dreamland leader Nick Laister said the action could start as early as this weekend as a few senior members man a stall and walk around the town centre canvassing views.

The group says Essex-based Stockvale, which runs Southend’s Adventure Island park, has offered to buy the park and invest £10 million in new rides and attractions.

The council had changed the Local Plan – a blueprint for the isle’s future – to allow some or all of the site to be developed for other uses.

Save Dreamland co-ordinator Sarah Vickery, who runs Margate’s Shell Grotto, said: “What baffles me is why they are going against the wishes of the people and business of Margate. Previous consultations have shown that most people want Dreamland protected in the Local Plan.

“We were delighted when the independent inspector confirmed our view.”

Mr Laister has promised to report every single comment received to the council.

Save Dreamland Campaign Coordinator Sarah Vickery (who - just for clarification - lives, works and invests in Margate), has expressed her disappointment with the Gazette newspaper for refusing the Campaign a proper right of reply:

"We specifically requested sight of the statement so that we may be given right to reply. We were given no sight of the statement and our comments are taken verbatim from our latest press release, which relates to the Local Plan consultation - they are not a response to Hunter's comments and we have been given no opportunity to 'blast our detractors'. In fact, the Gazette have never printed anything we have submitted to them in full and unedited as they have here for Hunter.

"I am very disappointed with the Gazette. This does not represent balanced and unbiased journalism."

Campaign Leader, Nick Laister (who lives and works about the same distance from Margate as Toby Hunter) has taken the opportunity to comment on the statements that we have shown in bold above:

"I am astonished by Toby Hunter's comments on the so-called 'vocal minority' and 'thoughtful majority'. There has been a consultation on the local plan, which showed overwhelming support for the retention of Dreamland as an amusement park. Then there was the consultation on the Margate Masterplan, which was dominated by Dreamland and the message got through again - that Dreamland must remain an amusement park. If the people who take the time to respond to public consultation exercises are not 'the thoughtful majority', as Toby Hunter calls them, then who are these people? I think the independent government inspector could also be described as 'thoughtful'. After all, he presided over a formal public inquiry session on the future of Dreamland. But I suppose his views don't count as he probably doesn't live in Margate. But surely Toby Hunter cannot dismiss the results of the Gazette coupon survey (not the website survey), which was in a newspaper that is distributed around the Isle of Thanet, and which showed that 78% of local people want Dreamland to remain an amusement park. Perhaps Mr Hunter wants to keep consulting until he gets the answer he wants.

"Mr Hunter's comments include a few obvious errors, such as the claim that the owners have submitted no planning applications. Whilst I accept that technically the listed building consent and conservation area consent applications were not 'planning applications', what about the planning application to install industrial fencing along the northern boundary of the site? And to say that the Save Dreamland Campaign has not invested a single penny into Margate is of course utter rubbish. I have personally invested thousands of pounds into a campaign that is desperately trying to save Margate's biggest visitor attraction. If that is not investing into Margate, what is? Many other members of the Campaign have invested and continue to invest large amounts of their own money in this campaign. They do it for no other reason than the fact that they care about the future of the town and worry about what will be left of its tourism industry with Dreamland gone. And considering that the Campaign has members from Margate's business community, Mr Hunter's comments about investment are running the risk of offending and alienating some of the town's most influential people - people who have invested in the town over many, many years.

"Despite what I have just said, I am very pleased about Toby's comments on Philip Miller's efforts to acquire Dreamland. Toby has really got to the heart of why this campaign exists. He is absolutely right that Philip Miller had several years "to offer the sort of money Jim Godden wanted for the site". And the reason he was unable to propose a deal that was successful? Thanet District Council's policy U-turn on the Local Plan. That change of policy in early 2003 - within days of the announcement that Dreamland was to close - meant that the value of the site shot up making it impossible for an amusement park operator to acquire the site. That is something we have been saying since the day the policy was published (in my view, a very bleak day in Margate's history), and the independent government inspector made exactly the same point in his Report. We have Thanet District Council to thank for the town's current predicament. And even in the face of strong criticism from the Inspector and the public, they continue to push ahead regardless. Our members will not forget what this Council has done.

"So what about Toby Hunter's plans for the site? We do welcome attempts to tidy the site and any improvements to the cinema will, of course, be equally welcome. However, I seriously doubt that Toby Hunter will be able to run a major amusement park on the site. He has paid far too much for it to be able to do that. He will need to look for development that can give him a reasonable return on his investment. I won't criticise him for this - he has paid for the site fairly and squarely, and is entitled to try and make some money on it. It is not Toby Hunter that any of us should be criticising. He is really something of a sideshow. In fact, in some ways, he is as much a victim of Thanet District Council's lack of leadership and vision as we are. Our criticism should be aimed directly at the Council. I don't know how they are going to dig themselves out of the hole they have dug for themselves (and continue to dig themselves deeper and deeper!). But we will continue to remind them of what they could have secured for the town if they had listened to their own people, businesses and visitors.

"This Campaign awaits the announcement of Toby Hunter's proposals with great interest." 

Thursday, 23 February 2006

The BBC News website featured the Save Dreamland Campaign today with the headline "Further fears over Dreamland site". Click here for the report.

World's Fair, the weekly trade newspaper for the amusement industry, featured an article on the Save Dreamland Campaign in its 24 February - 2 March edition, out today. "Dreamland campaign hits the streets", says correspondent Desmond Fitzgerald. "The weather is variable this week but down on the Kent coast things are definitely hotting up as the gloves come off for the organisers of the Save Dreamland Campaign."

The article continues: "Campaigners are set to go head to head with the local authority following Thanet District Council's refusal to heed the independent government inspector's recommendation that Dreamland should be protected. They will also ensure that townspeople's voices are heard by the Council."

To read the full article, which includes an interview with Sarah Vickery, click here.

Tuesday's Thanet Times also featured a report on the Local Plan consultation.

The newspaper also reported plans for a car rally at Dreamland:

"Dreamland publicity officer Stephen Shrubb  is making plans for a  summer motor extravaganza where car enthusiasts can show off their wheels...If you are a motor enthusiast who would like to get involved with the rally call Stephen on 07814 306664."

Wednesday, 22 February 2006

BBC Newsroom South East covered the Council's public consultation on Dreamland today and Nick Laister was interviewed by local radio.

And listen to BBC Radio Kent tomorrow morning at 8.10am to hear Sarah Vickery discussing the public consultation with John Warnett on the Breakfast Show.

 Monday, 20 February 2006

Thanet District Council has published proposed modifications to its Local Plan that will allow the Dreamland site to be either partially or completely redeveloped and is asking for people's views. This is in direct conflict with the independent government inspector’s report of November last year that stated unequivocally that Dreamland must remain an amusement park.

Margate-based Sarah Vickery, Coordinator of the Save Dreamland Campaign, has expressed her disappointment that the Council has chosen to ignore the outcome of the public inquiry:

“Of course, I am very disappointed that the Council has chosen to proceed with their plans to replace the town’s most visited tourist attraction with other forms of development, even when an independent government inspector has strongly criticised their approach. But what baffles me is why they are also going directly against the wishes of the people and businesses of Margate. The vast majority of people here want to see Dreamland protected in the Local Plan – we know that, because of the results of the Council’s last two public consultation exercises.

“We were delighted that the independent inspector confirmed our view that the Dreamland Amusement Park is massively important to Margate’s economy and that the Local Plan should ensure it is protected. He, quite rightly, stated that any Local Plan policy that allows for redevelopment of the site – such as the one now proposed by Thanet District Council – effectively means the end for Dreamland. The Inspector said what we always knew was the case: that amusement park operators cannot compete with developers of retail, housing and commercial leisure.”

Southend-based amusement park operator, Stockvale Ltd, has confirmed that it is willing to acquire Dreamland at full, independently-assessed, market value as an amusement park. The Company, which owns the 1.5 million-visitors-a-year Adventure Island Family Theme Park and has committed £10m investment on new rides and attractions.

Sarah continues: “With the Council’s 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 best we can hope for is a temporary travelling fair.

“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. We expect that large numbers of our members will want to object to this policy.”

The Proposed Modifications can be viewed on a special page on the Thanet District Council website:

You can comment in one of two ways:

1. By printing the comment form (a PDF document) and posting it to the Council:
2. By completing the form online.

Should you require any assistance in assembling your objections, please email Campaign Leader, Nick Laister:

Saturday, 18 February 2006

On 15 February 2006, we reported on this website that new industrial-style fencing had appeared in Dreamland, including a fence across the front of the Scenic Railway station. The fencing has been installed without planning permission.

We have made enquiries with the enforcement department of Thanet District Council, who have told us the following:

"I can confirm that the site has been inspected and the owners have been written to on the 14th February, advising that to retain the fence a planning application is required to be submitted and given 28 days within which to do so."

The Save Dreamland Campaign will continue to monitor this situation.

Earlier this week, Thanet District Council refused planning permission for similar fencing on the northern boundary of the park.

Yesterday's Isle of Thanet Gazette also included a news item on Dreamland, with Waterbridge boss Toby Hunter criticising the Save Dreamland Campaign for being out-of-towners and for not investing in Margate.

Friday, 17 February 2006

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

The applications were for the demolition of 'Park Amusements'; the 'Bungalow' (formerly a toilet block); the 'Top Sub Station' (adjacent to the Bungalow); the former restaurant, 11-14 Belgrave Road; and Belgrave House. Click here to see a scan of the refusal notice for the Top Sub-Station (one of the listed buildings) and here for one of the Conservation Area buildings (both PDF documents).

Campaign Leader, Nick Laister, said:

"We are pleased that the Council has refused these applications, which contravened listed building and conservation area policy. It is essential that we do not lose any amusement park-related structures from the site until plans are finalised and approved by the Council."

In other news, today's Adscene featured the following news item on Dreamland:

Your opinions about theme park will be heard on high

Your views about the future of Dreamland are still pouring into the Thanet Adscene. Our request for your opinions has brought a flood of replies. We will pass on EVERY reply to Thanet council, site owners Waterbridge and the government inspector who recommended Dreamland should stay as a theme park.

Last week's results showed a staggering 78 per cent of voters wanted the theme park to stay. This week, 60 per cent of coupon voters believe Dreamland could compete with Euro Disney and 83 per cent that more could be done to find investors.

Majority shareholders of the site, Margate Town Centre Regeneration Company, owned by Waterbridge, will hold a public consultation in April. Thanet council will also be asking for people's views on amendments to the Thanet Local Plan, including Dreamland from Friday, February 17 until Friday, March 31. Questionnaires will be available at Thanet council offices, on and in libraries.

The Save Dreamland Campaign will be posting more news on the proposed amendments to the Thanet Local Plan over the next few days.

Thursday, 16 February 2006

The Twentieth Century Society has written to Thanet District Council objecting to the planning applications to demolish listed buildings at Dreamland. The letter, by caseworker Cordula Zeidler, states: "Those structures are of historic interest as they were built as part of Dreamland and are, besides the roller coaster, all that remains of the former amusement park. The Sub Station, Toilet block and Park Amusements building could be brought back into use and their demolition is unnecessary and undesirable. The grounds of the former amusement park are currently used as a car park but it is to be hoped that Dreamland can be brought back to its original use; to achieve this all remaining buildings associated with the Scenic Railway ought to be retained."

The Society has also pledged to add its weight to the Save Dreamland Campaign's objection to the Thanet Local Plan policy for Dreamland. Last month, Thanet District Council's Conservative councillors voted to reject the recommendations of an independent government inspector, who had stated that Dreamland should remain an amusement park.

Wednesday, 15 February 2006

New industrial-style fencing has appeared in Dreamland over the past few days, including a fence across the front of the Scenic Railway station (although not touching the structure). The fencing can just be seen in the photograph to the right (click on the photograph for a larger version). Campaign Leader, Nick Laister, made the following statement earlier today:

"The palisade fencing that has been installed in Dreamland requires planning permission. I have been informed by officers at Thanet District Council that the fencing does not have planning permission. Clearly, industrial-style fencing of this type, immediately in front of the Scenic Railway station is completely inappropriate, and is harming the setting of the listed structure. I have been informed that the Council will be taking action against this fencing."

In other related news, a planning application for 2.4 metre-high palisade fencing along the northern boundary of the park, submitted in December 2005, has been refused by Thanet District Council as it would "detract from the special character of the Conservation Area". Click here for a photograph of more fencing that has appeared on the site over the past few days without planning permission.

Photographs courtesy of Richard Holland

Monday, 13 February 2006

The following appeared in last week's Adscene:

Hundreds vote for Dreamland to be restored

Hundreds of readers have made their views known about Dreamland through our Great Dreamland Debate. We have had sackfuls of responses since printing a questionnaire about the Margate fun park's future in last weeks Adscene. Forms were also printed in our sister paper the Isle of Thanet Gazette and on the website.

We started the debate after Thanet council voted to allow possible future development of the site, despite a government inspector's report advising it should be kept for leisure use. The response from you has been overwhelmingly in favour of keeping the site exclusively as a theme park. On the website 56% of people wanted to see this. as did 78% of those who voted by form. Opinions were posted on the website from as far afield as Edinburgh and Newcastle with many people saying they would stop visiting Margate if homes and shops are built on the former tourist attraction.

Of those who filled out forms, 80% believed a theme park could still be a money-spinner. Homes and shops got the thumbs down from 93% of form replies. Only 25% of web voters thought it was a good idea.

Among those to voice their views was Tony Ovenden, of Ramsgate, who said: "Dreamland is the hub of the leisure industry. Without the hub the wheel can't turn." However Mrs C Latchford. of Birchington, believes a fun park is outdated, adding: "Dreamland is a has-been. Today's children are more sophisticated and want things that are far more challenging." 

Majority shareowners The Margate Town Centre Regeneration Company says it will listen to people's views. Thanet council will also hold a six-week public consultation on the Thanet Local Plan, which includes recommendations for Dreamland. See the Isle of Thanet Gazette for more of your views.

After all the recent publicity in the local papers, the online poll is now showing over 80 per cent of people in favour of developing the site as a theme park.

Saturday, 11 February 2006

The classic 1953 film 'O Dreamland' is to be released on DVD for the first time on 27 February 2006 as part of a 2-disc collection of short films, Free Cinema. The 12-minute documentary film by Lindsay Anderson was shown at the Save Dreamland Campaign's 2003 convention and was one of the highlights of the event.

O Dreamland is a documentary about Margate's famous amusement park, which aims to show its darker side and the irony of its manufactured fun. Screen Online reviews the film:

"A 12-minute tour of the Margate funfair Dreamland (which still stands - in disrepair - today), the film features bleak and unattractive photography and a spare and impressionistic soundtrack. Despite the absence of a commentary, the film clearly conveys Anderson's critical view of Dreamland's 'attractions' - a 'Torture through the Ages' exhibit; bingo; penny arcades; bangers, beans and chips and seemingly endless mechanical puppets."

Click here to pre-order the DVD from at 25% off the recommended retail price.

Thursday, 9 February 2006

Another advert has appeared in the travelling fairground industry's trade newspaper, World's Fair (right). The advert suggests that the park will be open between 1 April and 31 October 2006 and that the "world famous" Scenic Railway will run "throughout the season". The advert describes the site as "clean and secure with all amenities included in price". The advert states that Waterbridge will undertake all the advertising and that there are special events planned on an "adjacent site" (presumably the fenced off parts of Dreamland).

The advert also appears to confirm that the gap in the building frontage on the seafront created by the 2003 fire at Mr G's amusement arcade will be used as a new access to the site. Besides offering "10 serviced picthes", the advert is also actively seeking a big wheel.

Click on the advert to see a larger version. And discuss the 2006 season in our Save Dreamland Forum.

Tuesday, 7 February 2006

Last weeks' Thanet Extra featured a small article on the Council Leader's plans for Dreamland.

Saturday, 4 February 2006

"You had your say, but will they listen?" said the front page of Friday's Isle of Thanet Gazette. The newspaper featured a huge, two-page article giving the results of their survey on the future of Dreamland.

"Massive support for a theme park" is the headline for the main part of the article, which went on to say:

"The Dreamland debate has brought replies flooding into the Gazette offices as hundreds of you had your say on the future of the historic amusement park."

"The response was overwhelmingly in favour of keeping Dreamland as a fun park. On the website,, 56 per cent of you said it should stay, and 78 per cent of people who voted on the coupon in last week's paper agreed."

The article continues:

"Even stronger were views on homes and shops, something proposed by the owners. A massive 93 per cent of coupon replies were against this and on the website only a quarter supported this.

The article featured quotes from several people, including Save Dreamland Campaign Leader, Nick Laister, and Council Leader, Sandy Ezekiel:

"Save Dreamland campaigner Nick Laister hailed the results, exclaiming: 'It's great news but I am not surprised. Every public consultation since the closure has been overwhelmingly in favour of keeping Dreamland.'

"Council leader Sandy Ezekiel said it would be 'lovely' to keep Dreamland but insisted proposals to develop the whole site were needed, adding: 'We have never said no to the theme park but we also have other ideas.'"

The article also quoted fairground operator, George Webb, who helped run the site last summer, who said: "I would be happy to come back and run the park again."

To read the full article and see the full results analysis, click here.

The Gazette also featured a selection of comments received. A scan of this page can be viewed by clicking here.

Finally, the Editor's Comment on Page 6 was also on the subject of Dreamland, with the very pertinent headline, "Why voters must never be ignored". The comment states:

Why voters must never be ignored
The amazing response to our call for views on Dreamland shows that despite the amount of time that has passed since its future as a theme park was first called into question, passions are still running high and probably will for many years to come.
None of the responses we had were identical, which is not surprising with so many different ways in which the site and Margate could be developed.
What is clear is that the overwhelming majority of you don't think Dreamland should make way for homes and shops.
It is hardly surprising. It seems that everywhere you turn in Thanet today, hotels, old hospitals ad car parks are being turned into yet more flats.
Yes, people need affordable homes, but how many of these new developments actually provide that? Few.
The shops we have are finding it tough to survive. So you, the people, have made your views clear, but will those who have pledged consultation on the future of Dreamland listen?

Campaign Leader, Nick Laister, commenting on the Gazette report, said:

"I think that the question asked by the editor of the Gazette - will those who have pledged consultation on the future of Dreamland listen? - is a good one. The people of Thanet must be feeling pretty fed up with endless consultations on Dreamland, especially when on each and every occasion, their views have been ignored by the Council. There was a consultation on the Local Plan. The results were ignored. In fact, the Council decided to go in the opposite direction. There was a consultation on the Margate Masterplan. Again the views of those who took part were ignored. Then there was the public inquiry, and the independent government inspector's report. Again, the council ignored the results. We now have another survey, stating clearly that people do not want houses and shops, they want Dreamland. Will the Council listen this time? I am not holding my breath!"

"Sandy Ezekiel says that the Council has never said no to Dreamland. That is disingenuous. The Council was told by an independent inspector that Dreamland would not survive if the Council allow for other uses on the site. They chose to ignore that advice and are pressing ahead with a Local Plan policy that allows for other uses on the site. The Council has said no to Dreamland. In doing so, they have turned away huge investment in the town's tourism industry. The Gazette survey shows that the people of Margate are rapidly losing patience with this council."