Thanet council Cabinet members take six minutes to agree Dreamland freehold sale proposal


Thanet council Cabinet members took just six minutes tonight (August 1) to agree the sale of the freehold for the entire Dreamland site -including the council car park and cinema building – to operaters Sands Heritage Limited.

The sale is subject to agreement from external funders regarding the removal of ongoing grant obligations upon the council, and subject to legal advice.

The sale will include the full complex, rides and the TDC restored cinema and Sunshine Café building, containing the ‘Dreamland Bars’, later famous for being the ‘Bali Hai’.

Photo Dean Spinks

It will include a restriction prohibiting housing development at the site for 10 years to tackle any possible planning application for development outside of leisure uses.

10 year development restriction

Following a question from Labour councillor Rob Yates about why the restriction is limited to 10 years, council leader Bob Bayford said it was “only a proposal.”

He added: “It is taking a realistic view of what you can impose over and above the normal restrictions on it in planning designations.”

A report to councillors says SHL has stated that it has no plans to develop housing and that it also plans to enter an agreement with the National Lottery Heritage Fund – which provided grant money for the original reopening in 2015 – to maintain the heritage aspects of the park.

Cllr Bayford said the negotiations with the lottery fund was “still a work in progress.”

Compulsory purchase

The council has owned Dreamland since September 2013 following a successful Compulsory Purchase Order against Margate Town Centre Regeneration -later renamed DreamlandLive- which had proposed an amusement park with up to 500 homes at the site.

The CPO was served in June 2011 but a lengthy court battle followed when the then-land owners  lodged an appeal which was dismissed by the High Court in May 2013.

However, compensation for the land is yet to be paid and will likely come from the proceeds of the sell-off to SHL, Council documents say the CPO compensation amount will be based on a date applicable at the time of the CPO, not the current valuation.

Councillor George Rusiecki asked at tonight’s meeting whether Crichel Down rules would apply – meaning would here be an obligation if selling to offer the site to the previous owner first.

Cllr Bayford said: “We have taken legal advice and are happy the rules would not apply in this particular case.”

How much money will have to be paid in compensation to the former owners has not been revealed.

The report to councillors says: “Even if there is a risk that a CPO valuation starting point is today’s value, to arrive at the 2012 value, very substantial deductions would apply because of the many millions of pounds spent on the site in the intervening years.”

However, it is also noted there is a risk the council may not achieve the market value of the site although the report adds: “The market value of the site will be established by an up-to-date, independent valuation. The disposal will not take place unless this valuation is equalled or exceeded.”

Just one valuation has been received due, said Cllr Bayford, to the specialised nature of the Dreamland site.

Dreamland investment

Photo Frank Leppard

The park initially reopened, with Sands Heritage at the helm, in 2015 following £19.4 million  funding from the Department for Culture Media and Sport’s Sea Change programme, the Heritage Lottery Fund and Thanet District Council.

It went into administration in May 2016 after SHL suffered financial difficulty at the end of 2015 and entered a voluntary debt plan. The company had been hit with a net loss of £5 million and owed bills of £2,893,128.

Arrowgrass bought SHL, secured payment of debts to bring the park out of administration and invested some £25million in re-landscaping, vintage rides restoration and the introduction of contemporary street food, eclectic bars, and a main stage.

The cash was secured by placing legal charges on SHL’s 99 year lease of the Dreamland site, and by placing charges on other, non-TDC, properties leased by SHL.

The properties include land at 43-47 Marine Terrace; land at 45-55 Eaton Road: Cinque Ports pub; Ziggy’s; fish and chip shop at 48 Marine Terrace and land at Dreamland amusement centre.

The firm, which owns Dreamland via holding company, Margate Estates Ltd, also has an option to purchase Arlington House.

The investment resulted in a second ‘reopening’ with a greater mix of music and events running alongside the amusement rides.

There has also been the addition of events such as Screamland, large scale gigs and child focused festivals.

Sale benefits

Dreamland car park

The council report says the sale will mean a loss of income from the authority-run car park and a possible  loss of a public amenity but adds: “The loss of car park revenue will need to be replaced. A freehold disposal typically generates a one-off capital receipt, rather than recurrent annual income. However, the receipt can be used to repay debt, and so the annual cost of debt repayments will be eliminated – which will offset the loss of income.”

The sale will include a restrictive covenant to guarantee the same number of public parking spaces in future as
exist now.

Tonight’s meeting approved the agreement with SHL to sell the whole site, including rides and intellectual property subject to the legal advice and external funders.

The council says SHL has wide plans, including establishing the new seafront hotel and conference facilities, which would boost chances of the park continuing to thrive.

In April Dreamland CEO Eddie Kemsley told The Isle of Thanet News that the aim was to look at ways to increase the number of hotel beds in Margate and to hold more events out of the main season, creating a 12 month business and the permanent employment associated with that.

The authority also says a sale will remove authority costs for estate management, maintenance and repairs – and significantly reduce staffing resource dedicated to Dreamland.

The council’s corporate portfolio is under review to ensure the authority only retains assets that support corporate
priorities and deliver value for money. Dreamland “represents a current and potential liability to the council, with current and future costs which are unsustainable.”

Centenary celebrations

Dreamland will celebrate its 100th anniversary next year. Dreamland’s Scenic Railway officially opened on  July 3, 1920, and the park is planning a huge programme of events, installations and activities for 2020 to celebrate a century of good times down by the sea.

The park is now appealing to people of all ages to share their best memories – personal moments or ones passed down through their family – on a special Facebook group . The group will stay open over the next 12 months for people to keep sharing moments and memories as the park builds up to its centenary celebrations.

Read here: Dreamland Trust gains Lottery grant to bring park heritage to life as part of double anniversary celebrations


  1. Hmm… really this land is the property of the generations of Margate Residents who have watched over it and fought for Dreamland to re-Open. It is all very well to sell the Family Silver but as the Land is the most Gypsy Land in the Country it is to be hoped that the new ‘owners’ never think to build homes on Epona’s Sacred Soil.Kooshti Bok Kooshti Sante to all to watch over Dreamlands Spirit.

  2. I am disgusted at the council
    what legal advice the same you took to close ramsgate port and cost people over £6m there was none
    have you done due dilligence
    NO I have that proof
    It had been taken over by Arrowgrass but who knew anything about them not until the people of this town councillors did their own research and how you can allow criminals to own property …I will now take this information I have to the police but not here

    TDC love dealing with criminals…shame on you Bob Bayford shame on you

    to whose benefit was this???? not the people of this town

  3. I attended the cabinet meeting and was appalled by the lack of scrutiny and questioning of the proposal by members in attendance and the poor quality and shortness of the replies to the two questions raised . Do the elected members merely attend to ensure they collect their allowances because on this showing an independent observer might draw this conclusion .
    Tdc have a bad track record of asset disposal and in any event is it appropriate for the council to sell off a public asset of this nature and of this historical and cultural significance to get themselves out of a financial mess of their own making ? It is an indictment of this council and its elected members that they think it is acceptable to place dreamland effectively under the stewardship of Arrowgrass an unaccountable offshore hedge fund . To propose only a 10 year stay on housing development on this site is a complete betrayal and sell out .Tdc must think again on this and must not be allowed to push this through . This is the same council that continues to wash its hands of its legal responsibilities to Arlington house residents as competent landlord .
    The public can have no trust or faith in a council that historically has been shown to act in such bad faith on so many of its commercial dealings !

    • No surprise there, the oversight and scrutiny committee is little more than a rubber stamping club with tea and biscuits. None are interested , they’re just filling a seat to fulfill an administrative requirement. I once asked the committee to look into something coming in front of them , all received documentation , not one contacted me before matter was signed off.

  4. This is the key sentence as far as I can see.

    How much money will have to be paid in compensation to the former owners has not been revealed.

    Why not? Is the Godden family involved in this new takeover? If so they won’t need compensation surely?

  5. This is Thanet Council. A bent organisation. Always has been whether red or blue. Expect Dreamland to be artificially turned into a non profitable company over the next 8-10 years and the bent council granting planning permission for housing.
    A smack in the face to all the volunteers over the years who campaigned and worked damned hard to get Dreamland up and running as a park.

    • Just about sums it up, though TDC will be hoping that there are no enforceable clawbacks on all the grant money dreamland received, i’d guess that is covered by the reference to agreement from lottery funding.

      But if you look at dreamland its all of a very temporary nature, the 10 years will be shortened by some ruse or another, probably some sort of trade off against improvements to the cinema and cafe.

      As for the parking, kept for public use will again get lost in translation and be for the housing when it appears. Margate has just signed away its chance of independent improvement.

  6. Personally I think the Council should maintain ownership of the land as this is the only way to guarantee it remains as solely a leisure use and no risk of other plans emerging in the future. Arrowgrass seem determined to make a success of it and have ploughed millions in already, but you never know what will happen in the future. So at the very least there should be some sort of covenant to prevent alternative site uses or something more like a 100 year ban on housing, 10 years is meaningless.

  7. Seems like the TDC trying to live up to their reputation of being “The council that fell off the back of a lorry”. They’ve been known as that for at least 40 years now. Nothing seems to change.

  8. Dreamland is a good park and looks fantastic now, but it really does need a decent steel rollercoaster. A vintage one would fit in so well. An original Looping Star would be fantastic. Imagine the buzz that would create having that back with all flags flying. It would look great nestled within a rock and boulder tree lined backdrop with the track surrounding high fountain jets. A big outlay initially yes but such a massive crowd pleaser. At the time it was the Looping Star that was nicknamed ‘the jewel in the crown’ anyway, not the Scenic Railway as it is described as being today. Or a vintage airtime coaster like JetStar would be good. Even a heavily themed Zyklon or a Thunderlooper would be a step in the right direction. I can’t see the Mary Rose ever coming back sadly although it would be amazing! But a Pirate Ship would fit in with the seaside theme park vibe perfectly.

  9. All very negative comments and all very negative for TDC. How embarrassing for them!!! It really does appear that no one has a good, honest word to say about them! I think it must be the most despised council in the land!

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