If ever there was justification for blogs in Thanet, the coverage by Tony Flaig on Big News Margate and Richard over on ECR of the demise of Margate's listed Scenic Railway and following discussion by readers is proof.
Now that the heat has died down on the issue, I feel some reflective thought is needed. For those who are wondering about the background to Dreamland's demise, I put up an item on 27 February with the title "Dreamland - The Lost Opportunity". If you can't be bothered to read it, I offer you a quote;
' I will not make clear my thoughts about the 'Scenic Railway' just in case I get a knock on the door after it suffers the fate of 'internal combustion'.
It has now suffered the predicted fate of 6 weeks ago and I ask the question "Qui bono" or "Who benefits?" I am of course assuming that this fire was not casual arson by vandals but a deliberate act with a purpose.
Is such an assumption valid? I believe it is. When men walked into Tivoli and set it on fire with petrol, Kent Fire Service were on site quickly, after all the Fire Station is only 3 minutes away, and saved the building. The same was not the case for Mr Gs (Goddens Gap) and The Scenic Railway despite the response time being similar. Has anyone looked at the timing of these fires and to where the nearest appliances were at the time? Could it be possible that appliances and crews in Churchfields were on a 'shout' at the time or elsewhere? A professional arsonist would want to make sure the fire's intensity built rapidly and that by monitoring the nearest available fire-fighting resources would then initiate the 'fire' when they were not in a position to respond. Was a 'hoax-call' sent or a small rubbish fire started shortly before that meant fire-fighting resources were elsewhere?
The Dreamland 'Dream' is in tatters and how has this come to pass? TDC are the major 'villains' in the story because they ignored The Independent Planning Officer's stricture to maintain the site as a key to Margate's revival and as a Leisure Attraction. They were somehow persuaded to allow Waterbridge to 'prove' that a Dreamland Attraction was not viable on the site for a couple of years. Wasn't this demonstrated so well in 2005 and 2006 with a pathetic assortment of rides and a 'wheel' shipped in? In 2007 the site was empty because TDC had approved a 49% housing and shopping plan with a pathetic 51% of the site to incorporate a 'heritage' fun park filled with obsolete rides and our Scenic Railway. How quickly the Save Dreamland Campaign went along with this pathetic idea and TDC ignored the overwhelming wishes of its electorate! In so doing, they sealed the fate of The Scenic Railway.
Who are the other players in this sad tale? Waterbridge? I refuse to use their arrogantly assumed title of Margate Town Centre Regeneration Company any more as it is akin to China calling itself 'Saviour and Protector of Tibet's Bhuddism'!
So Waterbridge got what they wanted with even Godden's Gap incorporated as an access off Marine Terrace into their proposed development. ('Qui bono' in relation to Mr G's arson?) They have effectively held Dreamland site, the key to Margate's revival, as a derelict site for years, as TC's non-arrival and Westwood Cross' growth has shattered its economy. What game are they playing?
They wish to maximise their 'profit' which is a legitimate aspiration and TDC's approval of 'their' plan doubled the value of the site from an estimated £16,000,000 to £32,000,000 overnight. There was still one problem for Margate. Did Waterbridge really believe in the farce of a major tourist draw to Margate with its 'Heritage Funfair' based around the Scenic Railway? Let's view what Toby Hunter of Waterbridge had to say this week.
"It might sound odd (you bet it does) but we have no idea to what extent it (The Scenic Railway) is insured." What an amazing admission from a company we are relying on to regenerate Margate! It gets better.
"It (the Scenic Railway and 'Heritage' Park on 51% of site) can only be open 15o days a year". No all year round visitor attraction here!
"By putting it (The Scenic Railway) under water and illuminating it, we were creating something that would complement the shopping and houses we hope to build". What a revealing comment concerning Waterbridge's attitude. So for 215 days of the year, our Scenic Railway was to be no more than a pretty backdrop to their development? Let's eaxamine their plans again for a moment? Would the substantial housing development envisaged on Dreamland be compatible with the noise, bustle, shrieks and screams of a fun-fair just yards away? Of course not.
So what will happen now? The building industry requires bank loans to develop and as we all know, we are in a credit crunch with building and development ceased on St Augustine's site in Westgate and at The Royal Seabathing. So will Waterbridge develop Dreamland? My answer is a resounding NO! They will either sit on the empty derelict site until the economic outlook improves or sell it on as quickly as possible. Have no doubt about the ability of developers to play the long waiting game whilst Margate declines in to utter oblivion.
So as Margate's fires and affairs seem to be more reminiscent of the law-less 'Wild West' with the authorities reluctant to bring any-one to account, I repeat the question 'qui bono' in respect of the demise of The Scenic Railway? Will it be re-built? Do pigs fly? We appear to be able to send mothers to prison for cot-deaths based on the probability evidence from expert witnesses; what would be the statistical probability of arson from fire insurance experts in respect of Mr Godden's interests that have suffered demise through fire?
No Scenic Railway and tacky 'Heritage' Fun-Fair makes the site a more attractive option for developers and it might just be a good thing in the long term if the way is now clear for a complete re-think. Could it be the case that we might yet see an all-weather attraction built on this site? I hope so and that at least something good might result from this dreadful business.
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