News: April 2008

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, 29 April 2008

The Dreamland Cinema has been upgraded to a II* listed building by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport as of 25th April. The building was previously Grade II. The signed schedule can be downloaded here.

Also of potential interest to campaigners is the future of the former Rotunda Amusement Park site in Folkestone, which was also owned by Dreamland Leisure Ltd and now forms part of ex-Saga boss Roger De Haan's seafront development project. Leisure Opportunities magazine reports that De Haan’s project was delayed for 18 months due to negotiations with "attractions operator" Jimmy Godden, co-owner of Dreamland, which makes up a large part of De Haan's seafront site. Apparently, even though the project's masterplan was drawn up in 2005, it wasn’t until November 2006 that Godden finally agreed to sell the land. De Haan took control in March 2007, which enabled the project to move forward. The Rotunda site is likely to be redeveloped in the near future. More here...

Dreamland is still getting much coverage in the local media. The Isle of Thanet Gazette of 18 April included a report as did the Thanet Times of 22 April, Your Thanet of 23 April and the Thanet Extra of 26 April:

Friday, 25 April 2008

Fairground industry newspaper, World's Fair, featured an article on recent events at Dreamland, culminating in the recent meeting between the Campaign, Thanet District Council and the Margate Renewal Partnership on Monday of this week. View a scan of the article.

Monday, 21 April 2008

Nick Laister and Susan Marsh of the Save Dreamland Campaign attended a meeting with senior representatives of Thanet District Council and the Margate Renewal Partnership to discuss the future of the Scenic Railway and to further progress plans for the Dreamland Heritage Amusement Park. More news on these proposals will be posted on this page over the coming weeks, so check back regularly.

Sunday, 20 April 2008

Today's national Observer newspaper included an article on the "torching" of the Scenic Railway and Margate's other problems - click here to view.

The Scenic fire and efforts to repair the ride are still making the news elsewhere. Kent on Sunday on 13 April had a lengthy piece about the fire and the future of the ride. The Thanet Times on 15 April carried a story:

Friday, 18 April 2008

On Wednesday, Thanet District Council's Planning Committee considered a recommendation from their officers that the Council should take legal action to ensure the repair of the Scenic Railway. The Committee voted unanimously in favour of accepting the Officer's recommendation. There was one amendment: that the curtilage of the Scenic Railway would be determined once counsel's opinion had seen sought. This news is reported at BBC News, Kent Online and Kent News.

Wednesday's YourThanet newspaper included extensive coverage of the efforts to restore the Scenic Railway. It was also covered by Invicta FM.

We have also been contacted by the webmaster of the website, who has posted the following two videos of Dreamland onto YouTube:

Dreamland 1990
Dreamland 2002

The 18 April issue of Private Eye featured a piece on the Scenic Railway fire in the 'Rotten Boroughs' section:


There was an air of inevitability about the fire which last week destroyed much of Margate's Scenic Railway, a grade II-listed wooden rollercoaster, once the centrepiece of Dreamland, a classic seaside amusement park which closed after 80 years in 2003.

The closure left 20 acres of seafront real estate practically deserted and ripe for development by its owner, Jimmy Godden. But the listed rollercoaster was in the middle of the site, and an independent government inspector's report in 2005 went against the supine local council and reiterated protection for it and the amusement park.

That year Godden formed the Margate Town Centre Regeneration Company with Reading-based developers Waterbridge, retaining a major stake in Dreamland.

A public "consultation" by Thanet council two years later tried yet again to float the idea of a development, coming up with an unhappy 50-50 compromise of "heritage amusement park" and the usual flats and shops.

This is not the first time Godden has experienced misfortune with his seafront developments. In 1998 his Pleasurama fun park in Ramsgate burned down in the midst of a campaign to save it from redevelopment. Fortunately on that occasion Godden had the comfort of a substantial insurance payout to soften the blow. In 2003 his Mr G arcade on Margate seafront went up in flames, but again there was consolation in that the hole it left, nicknamed "Godden's Gap" by locals, provided the perfect access road from the seafront into the Dreamland site.

When English Heritage listed the rollercoaster in 2002 Godden described it as "great news" and told the BBC it was "safe in his hands". A year later he closed Dreamland, and now more than a quarter of this historic ride lies in ashes.

Inspector Knacker is treating case as arson.

Finally, last week's Isle of Thanet Gazette featured extensive coverage of the Scenic Railway fire.

Tuesday, 15 April 2008


As we reported on 9 April, Thanet District Council will be considering the future of the Scenic Railway tomorrow. We have obtained a copy of the Committee Report. The key part of the report states:

"The Scenic Railway and Dreamland Cinema are unique heritage assets which could act as drivers for the regeneration of Margate town centre. There is also considerable public attachment and affection for Dreamland which, for many, is synonymous with Margate. Although at first glance the effects of the fire on the Scenic Railway look considerable, the vast majority of the structure is still intact and a repair would be relatively simple to effect. Because the structure has recently lacked regular maintenance it would be reasonable to assume that, had the fire not happened, a large amount of the structure would have had to have been replaced anyway in order to get the ride back in to operational condition.

"Discussions are ongoing with the owners and their agents with regard to security on the Dreamland site and the repair of the ride. It is considered reasonable to expect that the ride might be repaired and operational by Easter 2009. It would greatly assist the officers leading these discussions if they had the power to serve Statutory Notices on the owners, if necessary, to ensure that works are carried out."

The report goes on to request the powers to issue a Repairs Notice, which will require the owners of the Scenic Railway to put the structure back to good repair. If the specified repairs are not carried out, a compulsory purchase process is set in motion. The report adds:

"A Repairs Notice must be accompanied by a plan showing the boundary of the site that is the subject of the notice. In this case the Scenic Railway is so large, and so key to an understanding of the history of the site, that it is logical to include the entire Dreamland site, as defined in policy T8 of the Thanet Local Plan, as its curtilage. This would include the cinema building which forms the principal site entrance. Due to the deteriorating condition of the cinema, Members might wish to consider whether it would be appropriate to give the option to serve a Repairs Notice on this building as well."

This plan can be downloaded here. As stated previously, this meeting is at the Council Offices tomorrow at 7pm and is open to all. The Scenic Railway is the first item on the agenda. We will carry a report of the meeting on this news page.

Margate Town Centre Regeneration Company, owners of the Dreamland site, has sent a copy of the engineers' report on the stability of the Scenic Railway structure to the Save Dreamland Campaign. The report states: "With the majority of the structure undamaged, the overall stability of the structure is satisfactory. The areas of concern are the fire damaged ends of the structure which have several damaged posts, braces and track boards which could easily become detached and fall." The report provides initial advice on temporarily securing the structure. The full report can be downloaded here.

We have also been forwarded the press release from English Heritage on the Scenic fire, which was issued on 10 April, following a site visit by the organisation. The release effectively supports the actions of Thanet District Council and the owner's pledge to restore the ride and states:

"A team from English Heritage visited the scenic railway site yesterday to assess the damage and, thanks to the quick action of the emergency services, which limited the extent of the fire, it is felt that it would be feasible to repair the structure.  Indeed the structure has been rebuilt on two previous occasions after fires.

"The structure is so synonymous with the town that Margate without the scenic railway is inconceivable and English Heritage will support the site owner, Thanet District Council and the people of Margate in their efforts to resurrect this unique part of their heritage and to restore it to its position at the heart of the town."

Click here for the full release.

Monday, 14 April 2008

BBC News is reporting that the Scenic Railway could be up and running "by Easter next year". The report is based on the contents of an officer's report to Thanet District Council's Planning Committee, which will consider whether to serve a Repairs Notice on Wednesday evening. Officers said it was "considered reasonable to expect the ride might be repaired and operational" by next year. The full news report is here and the Thanet District Council press release is here. The meeting starts at 7pm, and a number of members of the Save Dreamland Campaign are understood to be attending. The meeting is open to the public.

This news is also carried by Kent News and Kent Online. Although somewhat inaccurate, the Society of Antiquaries of London also carries a news item on the fire.

Sunday, 13 April 2008

English Heritage has not ruled out providing funding for the restoration of the Scenic Railway following the fire on 7 April, according to Kent News. The newspaper group is also reporting that the Save Dreamland Campaign, Thanet District Council and English Heritage are all now "confident" that the Scenic Railway can be restored. Click here for the full article. The Save Dreamland Campaign's appeal for Scenic Railway blueprints is now on the front page of the National Amusement Park Historical Association website (top of right hand column). The Scenic fire is also reported at Amusement Today, and the American Coaster Enthusiasts website.

Yesterday's national Times newspaper included a small piece on the Scenic fire, following coverage in most other national papers:

Discussions about the Scenic Railway are ongoing at a number of forums and blogs (see various news reports below), including these that have only just come to our attention: Theme Park Review, Thanet Strife and Margate Architecture.

Finally, Kent Police are still appealing for witnesses and anyone with any information on the deliberate attack on the listed roller coaster. Click here for the request, which is still the main item of news on the Kent Police website. And click here for the official press release from the Kent Fire & Rescue Service. 

Saturday, 12 April 2008

Yesterday's Thanet Times had big coverage of the Scenic Railway fire.

Friday, 11 April 2008

Margate Town Centre Regeneration Company (MTCRC), the owners of Dreamland, have pledged to rebuild the Scenic Railway after the devastating fire which destroyed approximately 25% of the structure, but they need to find the original plans. If anybody can help in tracking down plans of the Scenic railway, please email

MTCRC's engineers, Jacobs, were allowed onto the site yesterday to assess the damage. Toby Hunter, Chairman of MTCRC, says in today's Isle of Thanet gazette that the company is "really hacked off" about the fire. Read the full story here.

On BBC News, Nick Laister of the Save Dreamland Campaign says his research and discussions since the fire shows that a rebuild is "possible and achievable". His calls for a rebuild are echoed in he report by Peter Kendall of English Heritage and Sandy Ezekiel of Thanet District Council. Click here for the full report.

Kent TV is featuring a moving 4 minute video on the fire, with interviews with campaigners Mick Tomlinson and Dave Collard. Click here to view.

Yesterday's Thanet Adscene also featured a report on the fire.

Finally, the Save Dreamland Trust has received £543 in donations since the fire. We are now keeping a tally of the total on the front page of the website, and we also have a new page at which you can donate to the Save Dreamland Trust.

Thursday, 10 April 2008

Donations to the Save Dreamland campaign in the wake of the Scenic Railway fire currently stand at £400. For details of how to donate, click here.

Coverage of the Scenic Railway fire continues. The C20 Society, a long-time supporter of this campaign, has issued a (slightly inaccurate) press release. Building Design Online featured a (very inaccurate) story. The fire was also featured on Kent TV (click here to view the piece), Fire Fighting News, Intergame Online, Coaster Crazy,, Lancashire Evening Post, Channel 4,  Footage of the fire is available on ITV's Your Local News website and a photo gallery has been added to the Invicta FM website. A small piece also appeared in the 8 April edition of the London Lite newspaper.

More discussion of the fire at Alton Towers Almanac and Turneround Margate. Finally, take a ride on the Scenic in 2002 on this YouTube video, brought to our attention by Save Dreamland Campaign member David Miller (taken by his brother).

Wednesday, 9 April 2008

Representatives from English Heritage today visited the Dreamland site to assess the damage to the Scenic Railway. "Based on our visit today, the damage is not as significant as was first presented to us," said Peter Kendall, Team Leader for Kent and East Sussex. "We are categorically of the view that the ride is repairable. We will work with everyone else to achieve that end."

In other related news, at the Planning Committee Meeting on Wednesday 16 April, Thanet District Council officers will be asking members' leave to serve a Repairs Notice under the 1990 (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act, to put the Scenic Railway back into operational condition. This meeting is open to the public. It starts at 7pm at the Council Chamber, Council Offices, Cecil Square, Margate. It is the first item on the agenda so anybody attending must be prompt.

The Police investigation continues and MTCRC's insurers were on-site today inspecting the damage.

Campaign Leader Nick Laister says: "It is now over 48 hours since the sad events of Monday afternoon and we have a much better picture of the extent of the damage and the prospects of repair. I am heartened by the huge response from the people of Margate - and from around the country - who have all expressed their outrage that this much-loved listed building could have been damaged in this way. I am pleased that Dreamland's owners have acted swiftly in getting people onto the site to assess the damage, and I have personally told Toby Hunter that we will do everything we can to help him with the task of restoring the ride, although no decision has yet been made by MTCRC."

"I have spent the last couple of days contacting as many people in the industry as possible to satisfy myself that the skills and expertise are available to rebuild the Scenic Railway. It is clear to me that repairing the damage may not be as arduous a task as we first thought. Several people who know the Scenic Railway well, and who have maintained the ride over the years, have told me that they are willing and able to get involved with the restoration. In addition, Blackpool Pleasure Beach have confirmed that they would be available to project manage the restoration, from design right through to operation, using their team of wooden roller coaster experts. The Pleasure Beach team rebuilt a fire-damaged wooden coaster at the park in 2004, built several replica wooden coasters as far away as Mexico and India, and of course maintains the large number of historic roller coasters at the huge Lancashire amusement park. With all the hundreds of photographs that are also available, significant expertise at the Council (and a privately-owned scale model of the ride!), I am convinced that a rebuild is possible and achievable."

Today's Your Thanet featured extensive coverage of the attack on the Scenic Railway on its front page. The coverage included interviews with Ralph Handscomb of the Margate Civic Trust, Dave Collard and Nick Laister of the Save Dreamland Campaign and local MP Roger Gale, who said: "This makes it more important than ever that Margate becomes an international centre for the traditional funfair."

Yesterday's UK national newspaper the Daily Mail also featured much coverage of the fire, with photographs. Other news reports at, Kent News, Big News Margate and Thanetonline.

Tuesday, 8 April 2008

Police investigating the fire which badly damaged the Scenic Railway have now confirmed it was started deliberately. Samples collected by specialist police and fire officers at the Margate site on Tuesday have been sent off for analysis in the arson investigation. The BBC News website carries a report on the investigations.

Thanet District Council has called for security at Dreamland to be stepped up following the arson attack and the Council Leader, Sandy Ezekiel, who called the ride "the single most important piece of the town’s cultural heritage" has said that the Council expects the owners to rebuild the structure as soon as possible. The press release is here.

The full extent of the damage can be seen from the photograph to the right, extending to about 25% of the ride's footprint. Click on the photograph to see a wider view of the damage.

Photograph: Airads Ltd (

Campaign Leader Nick Laister had a telephone conversation with Toby Hunter, Chairman of Dreamland owners the Margate Town Centre Regeneration Company Ltd, in which Mr Hunter confirmed that  engineering firm Jacobs will be on-site from Monday assessing the damage and advising on the works required to rebuild the ride. Mr Hunter explained that the main difficulty at the moment is the lack of detailed plans.

Nick comments: "I have had discussions with several people involved with the Scenic Railway and other wooden roller coasters today and it is clear that the structural rebuild will be relatively straightforward. Bear in mind that, on a typical year of maintenance, approximately 15% of the ride would be replaced anyway. And remember this is a ride that was effectively completely rebuilt every seven years when operated by the Bembom Brothers! The station and workshops were not in good condition and would have required virtual rebuilds in any event. The trains are more difficult, but there are other examples elsewhere in the world, and at Great Yarmouth, which could be used as a template for a rebuild."

"The ride has suffered from serious fires before and has rebuilt. This is acknowledged in the ride's listing. It is also acknowledged in the listing that the timber has been replaced repeatedly over the years. It can be rebuilt and little of its historic interest will have been lost.

"For the time being the most important thing is to stop this from becoming another Brighton West Pier, with a series of further arson attacks. Security at the site must be stepped up immediately to protect this now extremely vulnerable listed building."

The Save Dreamland Campaign calls on anybody with information on this crime to contact Crimestoppers. Campaign Secretary, Susan Marsh, says: "As the Police have now announced that the Scenic fire was arson can I appeal to anyone reading this Forum who has information as to the perpetrators to either go to the Police directly or if they feel unable to do that to use Crimestoppers, telephone number 0800 555 111 or via their website"

Further news reports can be seen in the following places, showing how far and wide the news has now spread:

ITV Lunchtime News (video)
The Sun
The Mirror
The Guardian
Kent News
Rye and Battle Observer
Teletext News
Edinburgh Evening News
Eastcliff Richard Blog

Campaign Coordinator Sarah Vickery appeared live from Dreamland on both the lunchtime and evening edition of the Meridian News. Dave Collard appeared on the BBC South East Today news programme this evening. Nick Laister spoke to local media, including Your Thanet, the Isle of Thanet Gazette and the BBC.

With her access to the fire damaged parts of the Scenic, Sarah managed to take a number of detailed photographs of the damaged areas. Click on the thumbnails below for larger versions.

Monday, 7 April 2008

This afternoon came the News that most members of this Campaign hoped we would never hear. A fire has partially destroyed the Scenic Railway at Dreamland, the UK's oldest roller coaster and a Grade II listed building.

Approximately 25% of the structure (the main lift hill and much of the central part of the ride) has been lost, and so has the workshop, which housed all the original trains.

Sarah Vickery and Dave Collard were on site swiftly to find the flames beginning to engulf the Station:

Photo: Nick Evans. Click for a larger view.
"Fires in Margate are not a rare occurrence and it's not the first time I've been told the Scenic was on fire," said Vickery. "So I was a bit sceptical at first to be honest. But as soon as we saw the smoke from the seafront we both knew it was the Scenic. I must admit, I cried."

News reports suggest that the fire started at between 4.15 and 4.30pm.

"I counted 10 engines at one point," said Vickery, "but there may well have been more. They seemed to be arriving from stations around East Kent and, I think, did a fantastic job of containing the fire.

"It was difficult to gauge just how much of the Scenic has gone with smoke billowing around the park, but I would guess we have lost at least 25% of the track, part of the Station and - this is the worst bit by far - the workshop."

The three Scenic Railway trains stored in the workshop were the original 1920s carriages, believed to be the only original surviving Scenic Railway trains in the UK. 

TDC Leader Sandy Ezekiel also watched the flames take hold, as did Cllr Mick Tomlinson. Ezekiel was heard to tell the local media that the Scenic must be rebuilt. He confirmed that the Council would work closely with English Heritage to ensure its rebuilding.

Whilst on site Collard and Vickery gave interviews to a variety of local media, including Invicta Radio, BBC Radio Kent and Meridian News. Nick Laister has also been keeping the media updated, speaking to the BBC, Thanet Extra and the Press Association, amongst others. Both ITV and BBC local news in the South East prominently featured the news item, and the news appears on the front page of the BBC News website this evening.

Video of the fire and the lift hill collapsing can be seen on YouTube here.

Campaign Leader Nick Laister made the following statement this evening:

"This is a very sad day indeed; however, this is certainly not the end. We won't be jumping to any conclusions about the Scenic's - or indeed this Campaign's - future. We need some time to take stock of the situation and work out the next steps. Margate Town Centre Regeneration Company Ltd (the owners of the site) have emailed me this evening, saying they are saddened by the events of today, and I will be talking to them tomorrow. We need to talk this through with MTCRC, the Council, English Heritage and other stakeholders to see how we move forward."

The campaign is currently accepting donations. Cheques should be made payable to the Save Dreamland Trust and sent to Sarah Vickery at:

The Shell Grotto
Grotto Hill
Kent CT9 2BU

The campaign's Paypal email is All donations are administered by Trust treasurer Sarah Vickery.

Other news reports can be found here:

BBC News
Kent Online
Eastcliff Richard
Ultimate Rollercoaster

Here are some of the best (worst!) photographs. The first link has the most comprehensive selection of detailed photos, showing the extent of the damage:

Various forums are already discussing the news:

Save Dreamland Campaign

All The Fun Of The Fair

Ultimate Rollercoaster
Roller Coaster Club of Great Britain

Some truly heartbreaking photographs taken by Nick Evans (author of Dreamland Remembered):

Below are some photographs taken earlier this evening by Sarah Vickery. Click on the thumbnails for the full size version. The final photograph is evidence that the news reports saying the Scenic Railway has been completely destroyed are exaggerating!



Just to prove that there is still something to fight for...much of the Scenic railway is still intact.

Saturday, 5 April 2008

A new book has been released that looks into the strong link between British seaside resorts and film. Of interest to Save Dreamland campaigners is the fact that the book has numerous references to Margate and Dreamland (not all of them necessarily favourable!), primarily due to its extensive coverage of two films in particular, O' Dreamland and Last Resort, both of which are based around a "dilapidated" Dreamland. Outside of its coverage of Margate and Dreamland, the book looks at the way seaside resorts have been depicted in various films and television programmes, including Brighton Rock, The Benny Hill Show, Fawlty Towers, Funny Bones, The Full Monty, London to Brighton, and Quadrophenia. The book is called Beached Margin and is by Jez Conolly, drama subject librarian at University of Bristol. Click here for more information.

Although the past couple of months have been quiet on the news front, whilst the owners of the site decide on a way forward, our Forum has never been livelier. Click here to discuss Dreamland with other campaigners.

Friday, 4 April 2008

Last week's Thanet Times featured memories of Dreamland's past.

Click here for the latest news

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