Thanet council becomes owner of Margate’s Dreamland
PUBLISHED: 14:23 03 September 2013 | UPDATED: 14:23 03 September 2013
But legal battle with former owners on the horizon
Once a bustling seaside attraction, Dreamland has for the past seven years sat desolate, a stark reminder of the decline in the popularity of the traditional seaside thrills.
But movement is now set to start at the empty Margate site after ownership of the land transferred into the hands of Thanet District Council, signalling the beginning of major plans to create the world’s first heritage amusement park.
For the local authority and team behind the plans, The Dreamland Trust, it marks a significant milestone.
It does not, however, signal an end to the on-going wranglings over the land, with legal action due by the site’s former owners, the newly named DreamlandLive, previously the Margate Town Regeneration Company.
The lengthy legal battle has run on for years, with the council pursuing a compulsory purchase order (CPO) to take the site over with a view to it becoming a £10 million heritage theme park.
It won its case last month and this week the transfer of ownership was completed, meaning the council and Dreamland Trust finally have access to begin their work.
But before Champagne corks start popping, DreamlandLive – which instead wants a mix of entertainment funded by housing on the 16-acre site – is appealing the CPO, with the legal challenge due to be heard on September 25-26.
It could see the heritage theme park plan – which has the renowned HemingwayDesign team, founded by Red or Dead designer Wayne Hemingway, behind it – shelved.
But for the time being, the council and Dreamland Trust are progressing with the project, which involves the protection and use of the Grade II listed Scenic Railway ride, the Grade II listed cinema building and the Grade II listed Menagerie Cages.
Surveyors will be the first on site to assess the condition of the land while Dreamland Trust and HemingwayDesign will push on with the creative design of the park.
Leader of Thanet District Council, Clive Hart, admitted the continued legal challenge was “nothing short of frustrating” but that the transfer of Dreamland to the authority was still a significant step forward.
“With overwhelming public support and the vital funds in place, we have been resolute in our commitment to deliver this landmark project and believe that the compulsory purchase of the land was the only viable option to save and restore the site,” he said.
“The council has carried out significant urgent repairs to the important heritage assets and has been saddened to see the site stand vacant and unused for such a long period of time.
“With support from the secretary of state, and the High Court, we are hopeful the right outcome will be determined at the appeal, and will continue to do all we can to unlock the regeneration of this part of Margate.”
Dreamland Trust chairman, Nick Laister, said the transfer of the site is one of the biggest milestones in the efforts to make Dreamland Margate’s biggest visitor attraction once again.
“The trust and TDC have worked very hard to secure this transfer in the best interests of Thanet, as having a large, derelict wasteland in the middle of the seafront has been so detrimental to the image of Margate,” he said.
“We hope to be able to cross the final hurdle at the Court of Appeal later this month.
“We have the right team in place to deliver this project and, with the necessary funding now available to us, we are confident that the people and businesses of Thanet will not have to wait too long now to see visible progress on site.”
Opponents DreamlandLive said, however, that the site needed the “right mix” of entertainment funded by “much-needed” quality housing.
“This is key to the area’s regeneration.”
What happens now?
With access granted it means people will be seeing some welcome movement on the site.
The £10m project, funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Government’s Sea Change programme, has been plagued with delays and uncertainty.
Problems caused by an error in the compulsory purchase order meant the opening date was pushed back from 2014 to 2015.
But this setback did little to stifle the optimism of those behind the project.
The Dreamland Trust said it will give them time to ensure the community buys into the vision with activities taking place in the lead up to the launch.