Councillors defy officer recommendation and approve Dreamland hotel

Margate Estates Dreamland hotel image

Controversial plans to build a 124 bed hotel on Margate seafront have been approved by Thanet council.

The six storey hotel will also contain a gymnasium, meeting rooms, a shop or café with frontage onto Marine Terrace, a restaurant and bar at the ground floor and a rooftop bar.

Plans were brought forward by Margate Estates, the parent company for Dreamland, and recommended for refusal by planning officers who argued the design compromised views of the Grade II* listed  cinema building and were at odds with the town’s Seafront Conservation Area aesthetic.

Under the proposals Ziggy’s rooftop bar and an adjoining empty building will be flattened. It will also use the space at ‘Godden’s Gap’ where the amusement arcade stood. The four-storey Mr G’s arcade burnt to the ground in 2003. Some 120 firefighters tackle the blaze at its height.

The rooftop bar will be set back from the main building line and partially enclosed. It will be constructed of lightweight glazing, giving  the impression of two stacked glass boxes.

But councillors voted unanimously against the recommendation arguing the economic benefits to Margate and Thanet were too important and that the unlisted buildings were not of historical significance.

Councillor Iris Johnston said: “We need more hotel beds in this town and need them throughout Thanet. It’s a bland looking building (hotel plans) but in keeping with 1824 façade that I fought to preserve.”

Aidan de Brunner, Dreamland, says the development would be a “catalyst” for regeneration. He told the packed chamber:  “We have tried to be sympathetic…when I look at the CGI what you can’t get away from is the overbearing presence of Arlington House.”

He added: ““Dreamland is turning away business because there is nowhere to stay; there are no quality hotels – the nearest 120 bed hotel is 15 miles away.”

He argued for the need for Margate to become a year-round destination with visitors coming to spend the weekend to compliment day trippers which helped contribute to the isle’s £4.2m tourist trade.

Liam Nabb, speaking on behalf of Margate Conservation Area Group, argued the plans could be much improved and that a better proposal could be put forward. He said: “I am speaking against this application on behalf of CAAG. It’s harmful to Dreamland’s cinema-if there’s to be a hotel, let’s insist it’s a good design, Margate deserves better.”

Mr Nabb  argued there was no evidence support the size of the development following a series of proposals for larger hotels passed but then not developed leaving eyesores such as Hoser’s Corner. He also suggested refurbishing Nayland Rock would be a better solution.

Historic England opposed the plans  saying they were concerned by the loss of two unlisted buildings “which make a positive contribution to the character and appearance of the conservation area and by the scale of the development which does not “respect the prevailing height of historic terracing it echoes and harms an appreciation of the prominence of the cinema and its frontage buildings.”.

Margate Estates says the project is expected to create 62 jobs within the hotel;  103 direct construction jobs over three years and 52 indirect construction jobs across the region over three years.

Cllr Ash Ashbee told the chamber that in an area of deprivation the district should be welcoming outside investment.

Margate Estates is the parent company for Dreamland after investor Arrowgrass Capital Partners bought out the shares of former park operator Sands Heritage Ltd.

Arrowgrass has invested millions in the site, including bringing the company out of administration, re-landscaping the park, rebuilding the management team and creating new music and wedding event spaces.


  1. Typical Councillors again. So just allow the first plans in case they pull out without building the hotel. The historic buildings get pulled down for a bland looking high hotel. Why couldn’t they negotiate to get something better looking and not so overbearing of a hotel? Roll on elections as we need candidates that are prepared to look after our towns and stick to the conservation reguations.

    • Yes Kent Resident, this is the first time in 15 years that somebody with sufficient money has come forward to fill in “Godden’s Gap”. Those five buildings were already lost. After all this time we need to move on and not conserve “Godden’s Gap” as a part of Margate’s character and history !

      Please have a look at the remaining, existing buildings to the east of the proposed hotel and tell me what looks so different about the proposed hotel ?

      • I am a Kent resident. However I very rarely go to Margate anymore as it’s just an eyesore with derelict buildings and has nothing to offer visitors we drive through and go to Ramsgate/Broadstairs you have to grab the hand that will bring visitors to your town

        • Mrs Ede I can understand your view of Margate and you move on,but Ramsgate apart from the lovely Harbour is in a worse state,your best is going to Broadstairs.

        • Oh Mrs Eade, how can you call Margate an eyesore. As you drive into the town from the Canterbury Road and the view opens up before you of the beach, the sea and the beautiful Regency buildings beyond the clock tower, how can you not be impressed? I am amazed at your “eyesore” comment.

    • Applicants spent Nearly a year on trying to get this building right for a submission with public consultations and discussions with officers. It is as near to the 1825 facade as you could get. 12 efforts were made to incorporate the existing buildings but none would have been appropriate. I am delighted it has been approved and very grateful to all who supported.

  2. Strange their market research is not very good! Another national hotel chain with a premises nearby says that its Margate business performs well below expectations, white elephant possibly!

  3. Thank goodness common sense reigns. The facade is far better than what we have there now thanks to Godden’s gap! This will be a massive step forward to making Margate a real holiday destination and hopefully detract from the eyesore of Arlington house. Well done those councillors who had real vision for Margate’s future.

  4. Good God it’s not often I use these words but well done counsellors at THANET district council. A very sensible decision that will generate long term jobs and help boost the THANET economy. It’s also a good kick up the rear for council officers whom seem to live in their own little world.

  5. Myself and everyone I know in Margate are thrilled by this sensible decision taken by Thanet Council. There should never have been any opposition to the much needed hotel but we do live in a free and democratic country where everyone is entitled to their own view, it’s just that some views are more misguided than others. I fail to see how the development could be described as “unduly prominent and obtrusive” considering that we have had to live with Arlington House since the 1960s. It looks very much in keeping with the existing terrace along the iconic seafront and, when complete, will be an invaluable asset to the town and we have to thank the Dreamland organisation for believing in Margate and helping to regenerate it into a premier seaside resort.

    • Totally agree TM. There was absolutely nothing valuable to preserve at the location, and as for ‘views of the iconic Dreamland cinema’, I hardly consider the east-facing fascia of that building worth looking at!

  6. About time Thanet stopped living in the past. Investment is desperately needed and old decrepit buildings replaced. Well done

  7. “Cllr Ash Ashbee told the chamber that in an area of deprivation the district should be welcoming outside investment.” That’s a bit rich coming from someone who has fought hand, tooth and nail to prevent redevelopment of the site of the failed, former airport at Manston.

    • We are already overcrowded in Thanet with a population of about 140,000 people! The infrastructure will not support cramming in another 30,000 people and at least 10,000 cars. We need tourists who will come to Thanet, stay a while and spend lots of money.

      • Your comment, John McKeown, is somewhat contradictive. On the one hand you want tourists to come to Thanet (as we all do)but then you say that Thanet won’t be able to cope with these extra people and the traffic they will bring to the area. So what side of the fence are you on? I’m puzzled.

  8. Council officers need to remember they advise not control councillors.

    Perhaps they should review their positions and resign if they disagree with the decision. At least TDC could make a justifiable financial saving as planning department officers seem entrenched in the 1960’s.

  9. There is something to be said for this development, it could attract short stay guests, but what about the Nayland Rock hotel? Its well past its use by date. I have not stayed there, but worked there as a volunteer when it was used to house recently arrived Asylum Seekers, and its depressing! Perhaps its time the owners thought about knocking it into social housing, it could be done, others have been converted this way before!

    • Naylands Rock is a listed building and over the border from my ward but I have regularly reported the problems on the sea side. Window sills etc need urgent repair. I understand the plan is to refurbish the whole building. Amazing views .

  10. I wonder where the urgency is to refurbish the Nayland Rock, now that the new hotel will probably take priority? So much potential at Naylands Rock which is being wasted as it falls more and more into disrepair. Surely much better views from here than across a car park to Dreamland or across the road from Marine Parade.

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