Opposition councillors call for Dreamland freehold sale to be re-examined

Dreamland Photo Jason Pay

Labour, Green and Thanet Independent councillors on Thanet District Council’s overview and scrutiny committee are calling in the council’s decision to sell the freehold of Dreamland to operator Sands Heritage Limited (SHL).

On August 1, Thanet council Cabinet members approved in principle the sale of the freehold for the entire Dreamland site -including the council car park and cinema building – 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’. 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.

SHL currently holds a 99-year-lease.

The move to call in the decision – which means a request has been made for it to be re-examined – will prevent it from being implemented until the cross-party scrutiny committee has looked closely at what is proposed.

Photo Frank Leppard

Opposition members to Thanet’s Conservative group, which leads a minority council administration, are concerned the proposed deal needs more public scrutiny to ensure Dreamland’s future is safeguarded following the use of significant public funding to bring it back into operation.

Shadow Cabinet Member for Financial Services & Estates, Rob Yates said: “This decision is being taken at speed. We need time to review the legal advice, to check the council will get best value for money, and to ensure that the heritage of the theme park will be kept intact.

“We fear that a rushed decision will not be in the best interest of the residents of Thanet and therefore ask that this decision is reviewed by scrutiny so that cross-party recommendations can be put to cabinet.

“We need to make sure this is not a Del Boy deal.”

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

Margate Estates Dreamland hotel image

A report to Cabinet members also highlighted SHL plans, including establishing a new seafront hotel and conference facilities, saying this 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.

Hedge fund Arrowgrass bought SHL and has invested some £25million in re-landscaping, vintage rides restoration and the introduction of contemporary street food, eclectic bars, and a main stage since 2017.

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


  1. Good move. This is how democracy should work. There have been too many crack-pot decisions made over the years, especially when private businessmen stand to make a packet out of the taxpayers. But now we are seeing some proper scrutiny of decisions, not the rush to approve with a tired show of hands from the businessmen’s cronies on the Council.

    • arrowgrass is a multi billion company based on ex bankers and sadly Keefogs there is a trait of council officers making decisions based on no due dilligence it is to cover the debts they are in yet will not declare the council is actually bankrupt through their erroneous ways year in year is what needs to be bought into question
      and the need to deal with offshore companies

  2. Well done and said Rob. We should never forget the time the Conservative council tried to stop the designation of Dreamland for Leisure in the Draft Local Plan. This is a matter of public record from a Full Council meeting. The Inspector agreed with Campaigning residents and our then Labour group that it had to remain for Leisure .

    • It was the campaigning group that had to persuade the council that the site had to remain for leisure purposes.

    • Iris dear Iris
      did you not allow the sale of ramsgate seafront go to dodgy offshore companies
      what has to stop is all this well he did this and he did that
      what has to stop is not doing the job properly on any administration this is peoples lives you mess with let alone the council tax wasted

      this council is not fit for purpose

  3. Surely the amount of money that is going to change hands should be known before any deal is agreed ?

    There needs to be a breakdown of the value of the assets being disposed of – ie the uplift of the leasehold to freehold value of the Dreamland Park; the freehold value of the land used for car parking; the freehold value of the Dreamland Cinema building and the freehold value of the Sunshine Cafe (more especially bearing in mind that £1.8m of “public'” money was spent on renovations a couple of years ago.

    There needs to be at least two independent valuations to ensure openness and transparency in these dealings.

    • The authority says a sale will remove authority costs for estate management, maintenance and repairs
      Why not make the tenant.s pay for the above ?

    • officers have made grave errors on this town of ours in fact the whole of thanet and I am in agreeance
      the council officers have made this town dirty, full of dirty rotten scroundels, to get out of their debt situation they have to sell off all the assets we have and the council the whole council need to be called in and I will gladly stand up against them if not who will!

  4. Regardless of whether or not people eventually decide that the sale’s a good thing, it should be concerning that there has been so little scrutiny. I understand that in the interests of efficiency and actually getting stuff done, it might not be possible for everything to be debated by the full council.

    But in this case Dreamland is so important to Thanet. We’re talking about around 160 years of history, if you go back to the Hall by the Sea and how it all started. There was a 12 year public campaign to save it with over 13,000 signed up members. At least £21 million of public money has gone into this. It directly employs around 300 staff. For its future to be decided by only a small part of the council, who debated it for just 6 minutes, seems absurd. That’s not how democracy’s supposed to work.

  5. I attended the recent cabinet meeting as an interested member of the public and having read the papers beforehand which were vague and unconvincing in their lack of detail it is clearly the right position to call in this decision for further scrutiny .
    The leader of the council Bob Bayford’s response to the questions raised at the meeting were dismissive poorly presented and lacked professional foundation .The lack of discussion of such an important issue was shocking . I doubt if Tdc’s existing position will stand up to professional scrutiny I welcome as a necessity the call for further cross party analysis and scrutiny of the recent decision with a view to overturning it or revising it considerably .
    I wouldn’t question the fact that Arrowgrass has invested in dreamland but in so doing has acquired a large amount of valuable prime real estate in the town at rock bottom prices in the process .
    One must remember dreamland and its site is a public asset belonging to the residents of Thanet having been initially largely funded by public grant making bodies . Arrowgrass is an unaccountable offshore hedge fund . A 10 year restricted covenant on a housing development is risible and quite frankly stinks . Are we witnessing another strong whiff of personal self interest and or corruption in the air associated with TDC . As we all all know most or all of TDC asset disposal is shrouded in controversy.

  6. Didnt SHL purchase the Lido once to try and turn that into a hotel? You can see whats coming. In the original documentation for the planning of dreamland, it spoke about free entry for everyone which would generate impulse purchases from people who wouldnt usually go to a site where they had to pay to enter thus generating more impulse income. Things seem to change quickly when money ia changing hands.

    • the story the real story goes a lot lot deeper than people really think I want to speak out and get this council got rid off
      due dilligence no they have not done any
      paper work is lost or they never minuted the meeting
      this is not open
      nor democratic
      SHL were in debt so they the council gave permission for arrowgrass but when a company is in debt it cannot trade this is a matter for the other agency to get involved so allowing arrowgrass to bail SHL out and continue and I have proof that arrowgrass are not being open and transparent with the people of thanet

  7. Seems the Council is more desperate to fire sale the assets of Thanet than run a proper administration based on priority. How many millions wasted moving office, part funding a parkway station that is a white elephant and years of okey cokey on the local plan and the millions wasted supporting a failed, now long closed, airport, the incompetent embarrassment of Pleasurama and the endless neglect of Ramsgate heritage assets too? Given our streets are filthy, our trees are being felled and our hedgerows blasted, what exactly is the latest TDC administration doing right for the residents of Thanet? Yes it’s being called to account here, but are we to suffer yet more years of divide and failure to work cohesively, collaboratovely for the benefit of the local community. Shape up. For all our sake. Stop selling off Thanet.

  8. I doubt the people of Thanet will benefit, whatever the sum raised from the sale. As my understanding is, is that the previous owners who lost control of the land to TDC under the CPO have yet to be recompensed. The money will simply transfer through TDC accounts leaving the the people of Thanet to cover the costs.
    The 10 year restriction maintaining leisure use is a risible decision, when you consider how often property is ‘landbanked’ for years until circumstances are right to maximise profit for for the owner.

  9. A 10 year reprieve? There should be NO reprieve. Dreamland should be allowed to continue for ever i.m.o I appreciate the company putting their money into it but it just cannot have a clause in the contract that allows them to do otherwise with the site in 10 years. Dreamland has returned and the community will not stand by and see it developed whether that be 10 years down the line or 50 years down the line.

  10. 10 years is short term landbanking. Stop emulating Mrs May by starting negotiations by giving everything away.

    If 10 years was advised by council oficers then sack them for gross incompetence.

    50 years or permanent block required.

  11. Wasn’t there a Conservative Councillor jailed a few years back, for under the counter property sales of council assets What ever happened to Sandy Ezekial, or whatever his name was, anyone know?

    • given a tag and probably still lerking around
      and an ex chief executive who had a hand in ramsgate seafront sell off
      they are all guilty of doing
      this town no justice
      time this council were taken in not called in ..

  12. Hopefully there will be a big turnout at this meeting to show the level of concern that there is around this deal -which TDC are trying to hurry through. I wonder why?

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