Council to re-examine 10 year development restriction clause in Dreamland freehold sale negotiations


Councillors at a meeting tonight (August 15) to examine the decision to sell the freehold of Dreamland to operator Sands Heritage Limited (SHL) have put forward recommendations to extend the 10 year restriction on housing development at the site to 18 years and for the council to get three-rather than the current one- valuations.

Suggestions that the sale is postponed until Thanet council’s outgoing head of asset management is replaced and to add a clause that the authority would get a percentage of any housing development sales were rejected.

A further proposal that the council car park be withdrawn from the freehold sale was also rejected.

Photo TDC

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– 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.

Sands Heritage Ltd currently holds a 99 year lease but the proposal would see the firm, under hedgefund Arrowgrass, buy the freehold.

Development fears

Three members of the public spoke, all with concerns about the 10 year development restriction on the amusement park site.

One resident said Thanet council should “work with the people of Thanet to take back control of our seafront” while another questioned why Sands Heritage was not paying a market rent that would provide income and reminded the council that the site was compulsory purchased to stop the previous owner building homes. A third resident said Thanet council should either keep the freehold or pass it to a charitable trust.

The 10 year restriction was also a concern to councillors with Cllr Steve Albon questioning why it was included at all when the land has a leisure use restriction in the draft Local Plan -a blueprint for Thanet housing and infrastructure until 2031- and Cllr Lynda Piper suggesting 25 years would be more acceptable.

Council leader Bob Bayford said: “The emerging Local Plan does keep (Dreamland) as an amusement park. We are seeking additional strengthening of that.”

However, he acknowledged concerns had been raised, adding: “We will review the whole thing and take a balanced view as to which way we think will be best given negotiations with the purchaser.”

In answer to TDC keeping the freehold he said: “I do not think an amusement park would have a future in council hands.”

Cllr Bayford said the sale could not be made without the agreement of the Heritage Lottery Fund, which was one of the organisations providing grants to reopen the park in 2015, and that would mean the protection of heritage assets. He also revealed that talks for the sale have been taking place over the last 10 months.

The 2015 Dreamland opening 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.

Hedge fund Arrowgrass, which bought all the shares in SHL after it went into administration, has since 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.

Scrutiny committee chairman Peter Campbell said the deal offered “potential inward investment in Thanet” and if the right safeguards were included in the sale it should be welcomed.

Councillor Rob Yates put forward both successful recommendations which will now be considered by Cabinet members next month.

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


  1. SHL went bust
    why are the council hell bent on dealing with people who have offshore accounts not just arrowgrass but Ramsgate sea front.
    Why are the council thinking that if they pass it on they do not have any debts either
    a scrutiny committee based on the same councilors
    who helped make that decision

    sack the lot of you

    • vision Madam, VISION….
      When you come round the corner at Nayland Rock we need a fantastic new vision… NO Arlington House but a beautiful eye catching modern lower built block, either Hotel or Flats. Look at Towns like Maspalomas, Lanzarotte. They are incredibly modernly graceful.
      Thanet needs this investment to keep up with our Continental neighbours. (I don’t include Benidorm). Dreamland Heritage site should remain for 25 -50 years, who knows what our World will be like then? The vision of today might even still be around.

  2. Dreamland died years ago when it went up in flames it is like throwing bad money at good money …
    I just found a document that sheds a whole new light on this situation altogether
    lets just say the financial people at TDC were going to write off £176k of SHL debt
    a credit note was raised
    in comes arrowgrass
    the same for Ramsgate seafront
    the same for a previous councilors debt
    the ferry debt

    sack the lot of you

  3. There was a level of scrutiny at last nights meeting, Tdc are clearly only going through the motions because they have to . As a result I continue to be dismayed and astounded by the paucity of information provided by the leader of the council and the defensive posture adopted in answering questions . For the chief executive not to feel it personally necessary to make any verbal contribution to the meeting is yet another example of the disdain shown towards the public and members . The fact that the meeting is set up in such a way that the leader , chief executive and many council members with their backs to the public speaks volumes .
    The public including opposition members are right to demand transparency over this process .Unfortunately the reassurance offered about SHL’s and Arrowgrass’ real intentions have no weight when so many of the real issues surrounding this sell off remain unanswered and side stepped and shrouded in secrecy , due to commercial sensitivity.How convenient ?
    Is it acceptable for an offshore hedge fund to own and control a local public asset such as Dreamland ?
    Does anyone really believe that Arrowgrass have spent £25 million on re landscaping and refurbishing vintage rides and food concessions etc since 2017 ?
    Arrowgrass with this deal if it goes through will acquire yet more real estate . Look out all you lease holders at Arlington House your days are numbered. Tdc have long wanted to offload this block and have colluded in Its demise for decades with total disregard for the welfare of its residents .

    • There is no evidence 25 million has been spent on the ground, but no doubt the accounts for the park will show that overall costs for dreamland do indeed come to that number, finance, management, writedowns etc all costs that invisibly add up.
      Council have been complicit in problems putting on events, “By the sea “ is no more due to capacity contraints imposed on the venue, the turnover of employees at dreamland is huge, talk to those that are there and most will tell you that the place is only really run to cover its running costs.
      My prediction- site is sold, blunders on for a few years, during which time revenues are engineered downwards, until a new rescue plan is presented, in which grand plans are drawn up for cinema ,cafe, arlington on the back of money raised from housing developments on the dreamland and arlington site. There will be carrots dangled in grand visons for the nayland rock and central margate ( sands hotel and the land now associated with it). There will be u- turns by tdc. All that is based on the national economy reamaining at least stable, any downturn and then , it’ll all just be land banked for the future.

  4. I recently visited margate and was very impress with what work has been done in the area I love margate I see it better than Southend. Let’s carry on developing margate to make our kent county glorious

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