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Public inquiry into Dreamland CPO bid starts today

PUBLISHED: 08:30 10 January 2012

Dreamland's history

Dreamland's history

Archant

Thanet District Council get tough over Margate centrepiece

Thanet District Council has rapped out a warning that “doing nothing at Dreamland is not acceptable” as it prepares for a public inquiry into its bid to compulsorily purchase the site.

The inquiry gets under way today, January 10, and will see the council setting out its case as to why it believes a Compulsory Purchase Order (CPO) is the only way forward for the famous site.

It wants to move on the land to push ahead with ambitious plans to turn it into a multi-million pound heritage theme park. The council originally served the CPO notice in June 2010.

However, the site’s current owners recently revealed their own proposals to turn it into a major tourism hotspot once again.

The council believes the site is key to the town’s regeneration and, along with the Turner Contemporary, herald its revival.

It is working in partnership with the Dreamland Trust to create a world first for the site, an amusement park of historic rides, with classic side shows, cafés, restaurants, special events, festivals and gardens. The project will also celebrate the British seaside and popular culture, with a focus on youth cultural heritage.

It includes the restoration of the Grade II* listed Scenic Railway and Dreamland Cinema building.

The initial improvements have already secured nearly £10million worth of funding - £3.7m from the Sea Change fund, £3m from the council and £3m from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF).

The HLF grant will be available to fund project costs, once the council has demonstrated full control over the Dreamland site to the HLF’s satisfaction. Despite lengthy negotiations with the land owners, there was no progress in transferring the amusement park site to the council, leaving, it claims, no option but to take CPO action.

Leader of Thanet District Council, Clive Hart, said: “Doing nothing on the Dreamland site is not acceptable. It’s already remained vacant and virtually unused for more than five years now and I understand the previous council administration has spent the last couple of years looking at various proposals from the landowners, trying to reach an amicable solution with them. It’s our view that the landowners’ proposals won’t achieve the regeneration of Dreamland.

“Having already spent a considerable amount of time and money trying to come to an agreement with the landowners, the council is left with compulsory purchase of the site as the only way forward. Dreamland is a precious asset, not just for people in Thanet, but the whole country and we cannot afford to lose it. The council and the Dreamland Trust have the desire, ambition and resources to get the first phase of work done on the site. This will then encourage further investment for future phases.”

Chair of The Dreamland Trust, Nick Laister, said: “The Dreamland Trust fully supports the action being taken by Thanet District Council to secure the regeneration of the Dreamland site. Given the lack of progress by the landowners, who have owned the site since 2005, it is essential that the CPO succeeds; otherwise this once-in-a-generation opportunity to reopen the park and repair these important listed buildings will be lost. We believe that our joint proposals for the site are deliverable, viable and will create a unique visitor attraction for Margate.

“There are no other proposals on the table that will retain the site as a tourist attraction, as required by the Local Plan, and which are deliverable and sustainable. Our proposals will keep the entire site in amusement park use and return Dreamland to the status that it enjoyed until very recently, at the heart of Margate’s visitor appeal. I will be personally attending the public inquiry and giving evidence in support of the CPO on behalf of The Dreamland Trust.”

The public inquiry is expected to last for approximately two weeks, although as it will not sit every day, it may last until the end of January. The inquiry is being held in the Council Chamber in Cecil Street, Margate and is open to the public.

Once the inquiry concludes, a report from the Planning Inspector is expected in late February or early March. This will then be submitted to the Secretary of State, who will make a decision on the case. This may not be known until May or June.

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