Sunday, 22 March 2009


It's easy to forget that despite Jimmy Godden buying Dreamland in 1996 and then spending the next few years selling off rides and running the place down, that in 2002 it still attracted 680,000 visitors. He then sold it to Waterbridge. How the Turner Centre would love to attract that number of visitors; after wasting £7 million and now spending another projected £17.4 million of tax-payer's money, TC is expected to attract only a paltrey 130,000 visitors per year.
Having seen the latest proposals for Dreamland, I burst into laughter as spontaneously as The Scenic Railway was 'torched' almost a year ago despite Deputy Mayor, Cllr Watt-Ruffell being the security manager of Dreamland.
Let's be realistic. Right from square one, Mr Godden and Mr Toby Hunter of Waterbridge and the risibly entitled Margate Town Centre Regeneration Company (MTCRC) had one purpose for the Dreamland site; they stated it quite clearly (see )
" Godden clearly had property development aspirations, but there was an obstacle he could not move: the Scenic Railway."
"Toby Hunter, chief executive of Waterbridge and the regeneration company, has plans for a £500m scheme that will comprise around 1m sq ft (92,900 sq m) of residential and 300,000 sq ft (27,870 sq m) of retail and leisure."
An excellent campaign was run by Nick Laister and Sarah Vickery (Save Dreamland) to stop this happening, until they joined forces with MTCRC. TDC ( led by Cllr Ezekiel) then ignored in 2006 the advice given by an Independent Planning Inspector concerning the vital nature of the Dreamland Site to Margate's regeneration. Here is what the report at the time said:
"TDC's plans encourage speculation. Dereliction would be the most likely outcome, if the speculative value of the site is higher than the value of the site which it can realise at any given time."
The history of the site since 2002 makes dismal reading; 2003, 2004, 2005 : opened for part of season only; (a fire that created Godden's Gap); 2006 a 'Big Wheel'for part of season and a funfair that would have embarrassed a Village Carnival; 2007, 2008, (Scenic Railway Arson) CLOSED and DERELICT. The future: 2009, 2010, 2011 CLOSED and derelict and just possibly a 'Hertage Park' opening in 2012? Isn't this exactly what TDC was warned about?
Just under a year ago, TDC was talking purposefully about insisting on urgent repair of the scenic railway or 'compulsory purchase' . This was reported in IOTG on 18 Apr 2008:
"At the meeting (TDC Meeting), Cllr Clive Hart raised the concern that although 20 per cent of the Scenic Railway would need to be completely rebuilt the other 80 per cent would still need work done to it as it has sat unmaintained for the past two years. Officers agreed works would also cover the remaining 80 per cent to ensure the ride would be operational.
Council officers considered it “reasonable to expect that the ride might be repaired and operational by Easter 2009.”

Well Easter 2009 is only three weeks away and my understanding is that despite TDC paying £42,000 in August to put in proper secure fencing (despite Cllr Watt-Ruffell heading up security at Dreamland), TDC has not got the money back for the tax-payer and MTCRC still hasn't got any detailed repair work done with Peter Beck for Waterbridge stating 'We still need to secure funding".
Readers might be surprised to know that I found a fascinating 'trade advert' for a 'LEASEHOLD on Dreamland, Margate looking for someone to make the Dream happen; here is an extract:

"No longer in use, the site includes a Grade II Listed Scenic Railway, a Grade II* Listed Cinema and various other buildings in different states of repair. Permission exists for amusement park uses on the site, and expressions of interest are invited for operators wishing to take up the leasehold of all or part of the site for development and operation of an amusement park, including the Scenic Railway, to the best modern standards. Those who are interested in living the dream will be asked to provide details of proposals for all or part of the site, a business plan, and certificates of qualification and insurance to run the park. In the initial instance, if you are interested in discussing the opportunity, please contact Ross Stewart on 0118 929 0720/0700 by 10th NOVEMBER 2008".
So what is this business all about that has been going on for some time with The Prince's Regeneration Trust; The Dreamland Trust; 'Sea Change' funding applications from the Dept. for Culture Media & Sport and Lottery Grant Applications?
So Waterbridge, a commercial property developer in the 'speculative' market is now expecting CHARITIES and THE TAXPAYER and LOTTERY to do its development for them to create a 'retro' theme park ? Have they no money of their own?
Well it's nice to know that despite arson; despite TDC's failure for whatever reasons to plan properly; despite Waterbridge and MTCRC 'running down their speculative investment' (GOSE Inspector's Report) since 2002, CHARITY & TAXPAYER'S money might come to the 'rescue' and provide us in 2012 with an exciting collection of 'old rides' that are presently rusting and rotting in various parts of the UK like the Scenic Railway is.
Thank goodness we have Rebecca Smith, Frank Thorley and Damien Cooke who still realise that modern development of The Dreamland SITE ( not a re-creation of the Dreamland we once had) as an all weather visitor attraction and a complement to our fabulous beach in Margate is what is needed.
I am afraid to admit that I have to agree with 'Mauwice' when Thom Morris quoted him as saying " Forget Dreamland and stop living in the past" in last month's Thanet Times. The problem is that Cllr Ezekiel clearly meant the SITE as well or he would have taken the advice of an Independent Planning Inspector 3 years ago!


Anonymous said...
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Michael Child said...

I think a major point here Bertie is that most fairground rides and indeed whole fairgrounds can be put up in less than a day and so with a certain amount of will Margate could have a leisure attraction there by Easter.

Surely no one can benefit from Margate collapsing as a tourist attraction and shopping town, least of all any of the property developers, what I can’t understand is why they don’t make temporary use of the two big leisure sites in Thanet Dreamland and Pleasurama available for temporary leisure use.

It is pretty obvious that nothing is going to happen on either site this summer but a lot of Brits are going to have to forgo foreign holidays with one Euro the pound and it would be better for us if some of them spent money in Thanet.

Anonymous said...

Please stop knocking the Turner Contemptable Gallery, ok so it will lose money,so it will not attract that many people to it,so its only our money,so at a very high spring tide it might flood,it will be probably the only thing left open in Margate after all the other shops and pubs close!
When the new Del boy series comes back on TV. they may incorporate into a sketch with our two ilustrious leaders,if they have not been thrown out of office.
Wait to see what Alan Sugars comments are!

Bertie Biggles said...

23.21, whilst I agree with the implications you have made, I am afraid I have had to edit your post:

Anonymous said...
I wonder what would be happening if we were not in a recession; and developers could see financial gain in developing areas of very valuable land.

It is a pity that the scenic railway was torched at the start of the recession. *************

Michael, I was saddened to see fairground rides squeezed on Marine Drive for the 'beach volley ball' and 'Quad Bike' week-ends when use could have been made of the Dreamland Site. (By the way is a 'fee' charged by KCC or TDC for outside traders who come and take money in this manner?)
I agree that a 'temporary uses' plan for Pleasurama and Dreamland would be of some help! Pop concerts at Dreamland? A funfair for the summer at Pleasurama?

22 March 2009 23:21

Simon Hopkins, Margate said...

With regard to the previous annon comment about Sir Alan Sugar.

I know what he would say to all the time and money wasters who are dragging their heels over the sites.