Tuesday, 27 April 2010


A "once in a decade opportunity" is how plans to take forward the regeneration of the Dreamland site in Margate are being described by Thanet District Council.

The proposals will go before Cabinet members at their meeting on Thursday (29 April) and update them on progress to date. The project is a partnership between the council, the Dreamland Trust and land owners the Margate Town Centre Regeneration Company. The plans would see Dreamland becoming the world's first amusement park of thrilling historic rides, creating a major new visitor attraction. It's predicted that it would attract over half a million visitors, creating several hundred new jobs and helping to regenerate the town.

The report asks for approval to put a total of £2.2 million into the project, which is within the council's existing budget. Funding for the project is already coming from the Sea Change fund, the Heritage Lottery Fund. Applications have also been submitted to English Heritage, Arts Council England, SEEDA and Thanet Works for additional funding. With the money from the council, expected funding could come to more than £11 million for the scheme, although this is still £1.8 million short of the full amount required. The council is still looking for this additional funding.

The report also asks for approval on transferring the land to the council. The landowners, the Margate Town Centre Regeneration Company, have already agreed, in principle, to transfer the freehold of the cinema building and land to the council. The council would then give the land, on a long lease, to the Dreamland Trust for a peppercorn rent. The council is aiming to complete the land transfer by the end of July 2010, but if this deadline cannot be met, the report asks the Cabinet to agree compulsory purchase proceedings. This would delay the project by 12 to 18 months.

Chief Executive Richard Samuel said: "This is very much a once in a decade opportunity to regenerate Dreamland and Margate and we know that's something local people want to see. Currently, this project is very much on track and the council wants to ensure that it continues to move forward on schedule. That's why we're putting forward these proposals. We also want to be completely open and show everyone where the money's coming from for this scheme and what stage we're at now.

"The Margate Town Centre Regeneration Company has been wholly supportive of the proposals from the beginning and we do have an agreement from them, in principle, to transfer the land at Dreamland to the council. Now that we've been successful in getting money from the Sea Change fund, the major risk to the project is the land transfer not going through. We have to set a timescale for that to happen. If it isn't completed by 31 July, we will have to start compulsory purchase proceedings. That's very much a last resort for us and not something that we'd enter into lightly. However, this is a once in a lifetime opportunity that we need to grasp and we're doing all we can to ensure that it goes ahead on time. Let's face it, we've currently got £8 million of public money on the table for this scheme and that's not likely to happen again in the next decade. Without that money, this project just won't go ahead."

Under the plans, visitors to Dreamland would be able to enjoy spectacular historic amusement park rides, many of which are the last surviving examples of their type. They would be built around the centrepiece of the park, the Scenic Railway, which is the UK's oldest surviving wooden roller coaster, and fourth oldest in the world. Restoration work will also be carried out on the grade II* listed Dreamland cinema building.

The project is being run by the Dreamland Trust and, if all goes to plan, work will commence towards the end of 2010 and the park will open in summer 2012.

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