Saturday, 27 March 2010


I must say that I was unimpressed to read in yesterday's IOTG that in 2012, we might see a big wheel back at Dreamland,  similar to the one we saw briefly in 2006 and 2007.

As we approach the 2nd anniversary of the Scenic Railway arson attack whilst Dreamland and its Scenic Railway was being guarded by Probe Security ( recently they seemed to have watched cars with no parking tickets more closely before being 'sacked'), it might be appropriate to remind readers about what has not happened. The good thing about 'blogs' as opposed to papers is that you can search archives easily and remind yourself of events.

Let's start with an IOTG report in the week of 24 April 2008 that was referred to by Strife, ' IOTG is reporting that renovation has been ordered by TDC or compulsory purchase will be initiated'. If my memory serves me well, the owners of Dreamland were seriously miffed by this approach and remarks made at the time , by hopefully, soon to be 'ex-deputy leader' Woger Latchford. What was revealing was this quote by Toby Hunter of Waterbridge: "It might sound odd but we have no idea to what extent it (The Scenic Railway) is insured."

Here is what Eastcliff Matters had to report in April 2008:

One thing I can support Thanet Council on, or at least members on the Planning committee, is on the legal action being taken to ensure Margate’s historic scenic railway is properly repaired.

Thanet Council’s planning committee has voted unanimously in favour of taking legal steps to secure the future of the fire-damaged feature at Dreamland. Members gave officers the power to serve repair notices on the former amusement park’s owners, Margate Town Centre Regeneration Company, which will compel them to bring the 1920 ride back to operating condition.

Issuing the order is seen as a last resort move by the council, but also gives it the option of compulsorily purchasing the entire 15 acre site - possibly including the Dreamland cinema - and paying for the work to be done before reselling it again.

I predict now, that it will be necessary, and that the current TDC administration will bottle out of the decision. They have already shown their colours when they overturned the Planning Inspectors recommendation that the Dreamland Site be reserved for leisure. 

Well how right, Cllr David Green was.

TDC not only failed to enforce a planning notice concerning the security fencing put up on the site in 2005 but  clearly has not enforced repair of The Scenic Railway. In addition, readers might remember the £48,000 or so, of TDC tax-payers money, that  was spent on additional security fencing after the arson attack. There is no record of this cost having been recovered by TDC and was this amount hidden in the 'write-offs' of debt by TDC recently,  that TDC refused to divulge details off?

It seems to me that a cynical dereliction of duty by TDC has ocurred and that TDC, the owners of The Dreamland site and The Dreamland Trust are going to rely on the tax-payer's largesse in the form of the recent £3,500,000 'Sea Change' funding from a Labour Government to not only repair the Scenic Railway but put together a number of knackered old rides to create an 'old' half-sized version of Dreamland that 'failed' in 2002 despite attracting 700,000 visitors to Margate. Now forgive me if I have got this wrong, but I thought that the owners of Dreamland were going to have to fund the 'Heritage' Dreamland as part of the deal to let them put housing on 49% of the site that was and is the 'Key to Margate's regeneration'?

The property magazine that quoted that Toby Hunter was anticipating a £500,000,000 project for housing on Dreamland seems to be the real reason why this farce has gone on for so long and  the Independent Planning Inspector who stated that 'the this Key site to Margate's regeneration would remain a derelict site for years if TDC did not act effectively' has been vindicated.

I leave you with a poster that highlighted the only 'reconstruction' of the Scenic Railway that has so far ocurred. (see below).


Bertie Biggles said...

I have been asked to post this comment via e-mail.

Dear Bertie,
I am glad you are raising some very valid points on Dreamland and enforcement needs to be taken to reinstate the scenic railway asap.

We all want the Park to succeed and as someone who was involved in 2002/2003 in plans that would have saved it I despair at the seven wasted years until the Sea Change money was made available. (YES to those who consistently refute this ...‘Mr Healy in December 2002 and through to the summer of 2003 had a genuine plan which might have worked. Many Margate businesses have gone to the wall waiting.)

I attended the very useful Chamber of Commerce presentation with Jonathon Bryant at the Fayreness Hotel and have since written to the Chief Executive for clarification on some points I raised at the meeting and indeed before within TDC. I am now awaiting a full written response.

I welcomed Jonathon’s honest update and queried how the site for the heritage rides would be handed over to the ‘Dreamland Trust and TDC’ if there were charges on the ‘whole’ site. At first he misunderstood my question and commented on the ‘charges’ for rides but once I clarified he said TDC were ‘in negotiation’. My main concern is that if the project doesn’t realize all of it’s funding or fails later who is responsible for any debts. I have never heard of any property, subject to charges, being able to give away part or all of their land. The bank etc usually has first call.

Apparantly the word ‘heritage’ is now being dropped and a number of concerns raised on the attractiveness of ‘nostalgic’ rides to younger people was discussed and is now being addressed. I have spoken on many occasions on the cost of renovation of the rides from Southport etc and about their safe storage and capability of getting a safety certificate. Cllr Latchford, in one furious response, told me they were ‘safely’ stored. This was not what I was hearing from those who saw them left out to the elements and already in poor condition.

I also asked for an update on the Tivoli Brook which must be resolved before anything goes on the site. An opportunity was missed by Cllr Ezekiel when he caved in to Southern Water over Foreness point once he had won control of TDC. Every sewer in Thanet and the Brook could have been part of the negotiations. That’s what Labour tried to achieve prior to 2003. Ezekiel threw away a bargaining tool once he had the votes of the people of Cliftonville East.

As ward councillor I want to be helpful and make Dreamland a success but I think I should not have to go to a public meeting to hear facts and figures which should be freely available if we are to be honest with the public on progress.

Kind regards,
Margate central Ward.

Anonymous said...

Some interesting points are raised here. Yes, Thanet Council dropped a massive clanger when they refused to follow the planning inspector's advice a few years back - such a move was almost unheard of in local government circles.

If it weren't for the Save Dreamland Campaign forming in 2003, there is a very good chance the site would have disappeared completely by now - despite efforts to put spanners in the works by many people, including some councillors it has to be said.

Like it or not, regenerating Dreamland to a heritage style theme park is probably Margate's best hope of becoming successful once more - sorry but the Turner Con gallery will always be a big white elephant to my uncultured tastes and I doubt will be the crowd pleaser it is being spun to be.

Dreamland is what the town is best known for to many people living around the London area who may well yet be willing once more to spend their hard earned cash in Margate - so let's get appealing to them sharpish!

I really hope Dreamland gets its rebirth soon. Yes, it will have to be done with taxpayers' money but what the hell, it would only be spent on something far less interesting and less meaningful.

I'm afraid we can't count on TDC to do any compulsory purchasing because, like many local authorities, it simply hasn't got the cash.

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