PRESS RELEASE 15 January 2003

Campaign Launched to Save Britain’s Oldest Roller Coaster


A campaign has been launched to save Britain’s oldest roller coaster. Nick Laister, the person who secured listed building status for the ride last year, is now heading up the campaign to save the Dreamland Pleasure Park (Margate, UK) and the 83-year-old Scenic Railway roller coaster.


The Scenic Railway roller coaster was built in 1920, the year that Dreamland opened, and is the only listed amusement park ride in the United Kingdom. Since the ride was listed, the owners of Dreamland have announced that the park is to close. According to its owner, Jimmy Godden, the park is to be replaced by "leisure boxes, some retail and a supermarket” (Source: BBC Kent News).


The Save Dreamland Campaign is being led by planning expert Nick Laister, a leading authority on the UK theme park industry, planning consultant and editor of, the specialist amusement park bookstore. Laister believes that closure of the park would be a huge blow for Margate’s tourism industry and for Britain’s amusement park heritage:


"The Scenic Railway is the oldest roller coaster in Britain, at 83 years old, and is one of only two surviving scenic railway coasters. It is a truly remarkable survivor and entirely deserving of its Grade II listed status. I am concerned that some members of Thanet Council already seem to have accepted that closure of the park is inevitable. I find it astonishing that the closure of Margate’s biggest tourist attraction could be seen as a benefit to Margate. Dreamland is the only major seaside fun park in this part of the country. If it closes, what will bring the people to Margate? Retail boxes and a supermarket? You can see these in any town in Britain, you don't have to go to Margate."


Since its launch last week, the Campaign is now speaking on behalf of 12,000 people who want to see Dreamland and the Scenic Railway survive. These range from local residents of Margate to international organisations which are involved in the preservation of historic amusement park rides. The Campaign is also supported by the Roller Coaster Club of Great Britain, the European Coaster Club and the 8,000-strong American Coaster Enthusiasts.


Laister adds: “National planning policy requires that, before demolition, a site containing a listed building must be offered on the open market at an realistic price. The closure of Dreamland seems to have been precipitated only by the forthcoming retirement of the park’s owner. That is not sufficient justification to close Dreamland, especially given the harm that will cause to Margate’s tourism industry. I know from the hundreds of emails I have received that locals, holidaymakers, and those interested in Britain’s fast-disappearing seaside heritage do not want to see Dreamland or the Scenic Railway go. I am convinced that there are other operators out there who would be prepared to invest in Margate’s future as a seaside resort.”


Laister has put together a proposal for the future of the Dreamland site, which he will be discussing with planning officers shortly.


To find out more about the Save Dreamland Campaign visit the campaign website at


For further information, or to organise interviews, please contact Nick Laister on 01235 838214 (day), 07778 207036 (mobile) or 01235 762186 (evenings).



Information for Editors

Over 120 wooden roller coasters, the centrepiece of most amusement parks in the 20th Century, were built between 1885 and 1960. Only nine now survive.

Only two 'Scenic Railway' roller coasters now survive, and the Scenic Railway at Dreamland is the only one surviving intact.
The removal of this ride would almost completely wipe out this important part of British amusement park heritage.

The other surviving scenic railway is at the Pleasure Beach, Great Yarmouth, and was built in 1932.

The Scenic Railway at Dreamland is the oldest surviving roller coaster in the United Kingdom. Its age and rarity were major factors in support of its listing.


The report submitted to English Heritage, which resulted in the Scenic Railway becoming a listed building, can be downloaded for free from

When a structure is listed it is placed on a statutory list of buildings of 'special architectural or historic interest' compiled by the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990. Listing ensures that the architectural and historic interest of a building is carefully considered before any alterations are agreed. There are currently over 37,000 buildings and other structures protected by listing status. For more information on listed buildings, visit the English Heritage website on

Nick Laister BA (Hons) DipTP MRTPI MIHT is a leading authority on the UK theme park industry. He is a Chartered Town Planner and Technical Director with the RPS Group plc, and specialises in planning for tourism and leisure. He has been involved in a number of listed buildings and conservation cases, and has appeared as expert witness at several public inquiries and hearings. He has written articles for a number of newspapers and journals and has been invited to speak at conferences on the subject of planning for tourism and leisure. He is regularly interviewed on television and radio on the same subject. He is co-owner of Skelter Publishing LLP and editor of the web site

Dreamland Fun Park is located at Belgrave Road, Margate. The telephone number is 01843 227011.

The contact number for English Heritage is 0870 333 1181.

Further reading about amusement park and fairground history can be found at the specialist online bookstore Regular articles on the subject appear monthly on the fairground preservation website


See also BBC News story:


Additional quotes:

"Without Dreamland, Margate will become a very ordinary resort with nothing to distinguish it from all its competitors. At a time when all resorts are struggling to attract tourists, it makes no sense whatsoever to take away the one thing that makes Margate stand out from the rest. And all presumably in aid of a quick profit by the current owner. Forget the quick profit Mr Godden - think about the long term damage this will do to the resort."
Dave Lawrence
Margate holidaymaker

 "A considerable number of our members, including myself, have many happy memories of riding the Scenic Railway. This is truly sad news and everyone I have spoken to has agreed that something must be done. The European Coaster Club is 100% behind this campaign and we are all crossing our fingers hoping that we will be able to ride the Scenic Railway for many more years to come."
Richard Foster
European Coaster Club

"The American Coaster Enthusiasts (ACE), as the world's largest club of amusement park fans, with over 8,000 members worldwide, fully supports the effort to preserve the Scenic Railway. It is the fifth oldest operating roller coaster in the World, and one of only nine scenic railways left in the World. One of ACE's primary goals is the preservation of historic roller coasters, and we feel that the Scenic Railway easily meets the criteria as a valuable piece of the history of amusement parks and as such should be saved."
Matt Crowther
Preservation Director,


Return to Save Dreamland