Dreamland operator receives £10m investment boost in bid to prepare Margate leisure complex for sale

15:49 05 January 2017




Cayman Islands-based hedge fund company Arrowgrass extended its loan facility to cash-strapped Sands Heritage Ltd

The cash-strapped operator of Margate’s troubled leisure complex, Dreamland, has received a boost after its loan facility was extended to almost £10m in a bid to prepare the site for a sale.

Sands Heritage Ltd entered administration in May last year after racking up debts of some £14m but has now received investment to the tune of up to £9.915m from hedge fund company Arrowgrass, which is based in the Cayman Islands.

A report issued to the operator’s creditors last year warned a sale was likely in the future if not immediately, and now administrators have told us the cash from Arrowgrass is earmarked for investment within the site in order to prepare it for a potential sale later in the year.

It comes after the park’s centrepiece, the Scenic Railway, finally re-opened after almost six months out of action.

Toby Hunter of the Margate Town Centre Regeneration Company (MTCRC) welcomed the news, with his firm currently chasing compensation for Thanet District Council’s compulsory purchase order (CPO) of the site.

“We’re happy in some ways - if Arrowgrass have extended it and intend to buy the freehold of the site that might give Thanet some money which they have not got,” he told us.

“I wish Margate all the best in getting a proper facility and leisure attraction but I remain cynical about everyone’s intentions.”

Mr Hunter also said he expects the council’s legal team to produce a figure on which they’d like to settle next week, though a definitive agreement is likely to be months away.

MTCRC believes it is owed upwards of £15m, while the council’s estimated valuation of the land is believed to be “significantly lower”.

Council leader Chris Wells has repeatedly refused to comment on the intricacies of an ongoing legal discussion.

However, former Thanet councillor and blogger Ian Driver felt the investment was a move to benefit Arrowgrass, rather than the local community.

“The original plan for Dreamland was that it would be managed by a charitable trust and that profits would be invested back into the park and the local community to help to regenerate Margate and Thanet,” he said.

“Dreamland was acquired, restored and opened by the investment of at least £20m of public money with the aim of benefiting local people.

“This massive public investment is now helping to enrich people who are already incredibly wealthy, instead of helping to tackle poverty and deprivation in Margate.

“There must be a public inquiry into this appalling situation”.

Thanet North MP Sir Roger Gale told us: “If it’s going to be sold I’d like to see it bought by somebody who knows and understands the leisure business.

“Dreamland is not just an amusement park it’s a 365-day-a-year leisure complex - it’s a unique facility, it’s got its own magic and its potential is huge.

“Margate still has plenty to offer and I would argue the best is yet to come.

“If we can find the best person and stop the council meddling, the future is bright.”

Sir Roger has repeatedly blamed the local authority for “letting down” Sands Heritage though the council has distanced itself from any responsibility for the operator’s plight.

The council has been approached for a response, while Arrowgrass representatives were unavailable for comment.

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