Interview by Gary Radice
: Added 2002/2003/2005
"The Save Dreamland Campaign is today celebrating an important victory in the fight to retain Margate’s historic amusement park. An independent Government inspector has stated that Dreamland should remain an amusement park and the listed Scenic Railway roller coaster at its centre should be protected." Nick Laister, November 17th 2005
Anyone who has a flicker of interest in the plight of Margate's Dreamland Amusement Park, its historic Scenic Railway roller coaster or indeed Margate the town itself, will warm to the words of Nick Laister. There is no doubt that without the Save Dreamland Campaign these would be very dark days indeed for the tourism industry in Margate. A major battle has been won in the ongoing war to save the much loved park and ride from property developers. On the following pages, themagiceye is proud to present an interview with Nick Laister dating back to 2002, before he set up the Save Dreamland Campaign, and an interview with Sarah Vickery, the local Save Dreamland coordinator dating from March 2003. Together these two short interviews provide a snapshot of the fighting spirit, dedication and total professionalism of these people that has been a hallmark of the campaign since day one.

The Nick Laister Interview

Nick Laister is planning adviser to many of the UK's theme parks, a leading authority on the British amusement park industry and editor of the website www.joylandbooks.com which specialises in books on amusement park history.
He is a Chartered Town Planner working as Senior Director at the RPS Group plc, the UK's largest planning consultancy. He specialises in planning for tourism and leisure. His clients include many well known UK theme parks. He also acts for several UK and international casino operators and FTSE 100 property developers. 
He has appeared as expert witness at several public inquiries and hearings dealing with all aspects of development. He has written articles for newspapers and journals and has been invited to speak at conferences on the subject of planning for tourism and leisure.
As parks strive to 'out-coast' each other with the tallest, loopiest, fastest and longest rides, what does the future hold for the UK's vintage coasters?
..Well, thanks to Nick Laister and Dave Page, the future of Dreamland's Scenic Railway at Margate should be assured. And perhaps this is just the beginning?
There is no doubting the fact that the listing of this classic coaster is the most important UK coaster news for many a year!

When did you first get the idea?

I first got the idea of getting the scenic railway listed back in 2000 following the destruction of the Morecambe Cyclone (Texas Tornado). That really made me realise that our coaster and amusement park heritage is fast disappearing and something needs to be done to save some of the best of what remains.
The Scenic Railway is the oldest roller coaster in the UK and one of only two remaining scenic railways (out of a total of 37 that were built in this country). And if any ride is worthy of listing, this is it.  
I had also watched as the Dreamland Fun Park had been downsized over the past 12 months. That really made me think that I should take some sort of action to ensure that this most important of rides is saved for future generations. As a chartered town planner working for a planning consultancy, I frequently get involved in listed buildings cases, such as listed cinemas, churches and houses.
I know how the listed building system works so I thought that I would see if I could get the ride listed.
Nobody had ever tried to get an amusement park ride listed before, but they meet all the necessary criteria to become a listed building. So I thought I would give it a go. After much encouragement from my good friend David Page (who wrote an excellent article about the ride in 2001) I put pen to paper.
I submitted a request for listing with an accompanying report to English Heritage in May 2001 and ten months later it was a listed building. It was as simple as that!

But what does this actually all mean for The Scenic Railway?

It means that it should be protected from redevelopment. In practice, if the owner wants to make any changes to the ride, he must apply for listed building consent.

Did you inform the owner of your intentions, and if not, how did you keep it all a secret?
I didn't involve the owners as I am always suspicious that if they get wind of an attempt to list a ride, then the ride might suddenly disappear one night. That has happened to numerous buildings and it sort of defeats the object. However, I have absolutely no reason to believe that the owner of Dreamland, Jimmy Godden, would have removed the ride had he heard about the listing attempt. In fact, quite the contrary, he has done a great deal of good for the ride, including a full restoration in 1995/1996.

What percentage of funds will be made available in the future by the government and by the owner for the ride's upkeep?

That is really a matter for Mr. Godden, the council and English Heritage. I hope that grant funding will now be available to assist with the ride's upkeep and there have certainly been indications from the above parties that this will be the case.

Can the owner still sell the land around The Scenic Railway?
Yes, the listing does not affect ownership. However, development that would harm the setting of a listed building would not be allowed. That should help to ensure that the area around the ride stays an amusement park use. Thanet District Council has confirmed to me that they are now taking steps to alter the development plan to require that most of the site remains in amusement park use, but may allow some of the site to be redeveloped.  

In your opinion, does this make it more of, or less of, an attractive proposition for a prospective buyer of the land?
All it does is make sure that any buyer retains the site and hopefully, most of the park. That has to be good for Margate as a seaside resort. A housing or supermarket development on the site would do nothing for Margate's future as a resort.  

Is the full report you submitted with Dave Page available on the net?
Yes, at www.joylandbooks.com. You can download the full report:
On Microsoft Windows format here.
PDF format here.
Text only format here.

What now?
I am now turning my attention to the wider issue of amusement park history with the full support of English Heritage. What the study will reveal I cannot say at the moment...

Nick Laister at Oakwood in 2006

The Scenic Railway in 2002 (Photo: Nick Laister)

One of the Scenic Railway trains (Photo: Nick Laister)

Nick Laister with fellow campaigners Mark and Dave at the 2006 Preston Steam Rally.



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