Dreamland sold to park operators Sands Heritage Limited

Dreamland Photo Frank Leppard

Ownership of the freehold of Dreamland has today (Monday 21 December ) transferred from Thanet District Council to the current lessee and operator of the park, Sands Heritage Limited (SHL).

SHL previously held a 99 year lease but the sale means the firm, under hedgefund Arrowgrass, now owns the freehold.

Arrowgrass bought out Dreamland shares to bring the park out of administration in 2017. 

On August 1,2019, 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.

Photo by Dean Spinks

The sale, one of the biggest asset disposals in Thanet council’s history, includes the TDC restored Dreamland cinema and Sunshine Café building, containing the ‘Dreamland Bars’, later famous for being the ‘Bali Hai’. The terms include a restriction prohibiting housing development at the site for 10 years to tackle any possible planning application for development outside of leisure uses.

Last year a recommendation to extend the ban on development from 10 years to 18 years – when the obligations for Heritage Lottery funding expires- was rejected by councillors.

The former Sunshine Cafe site in the Dreamland cinema building

The council has owned the Dreamland site since September 2013 following a Compulsory Purchase Order which was a catalyst for the re-opening of the reimagined amusement park in 2015.

The decision to sell was made last year by the then Conservative-led council. At the time Labour raised concerns over how the heritage assets at the park would be protected and members said they did not believe it was in the best financial interests of the council to sell the income producing car park.

However, the 400 space car park will be transferred to SHL under a two part sale process. The car park is currently in short term use, under a 6 month lease, as a Covid testing site. The council will complete the sale of the car park at the end of the lease in the spring.

Leader of Thanet District Council, Cllr Rick Everitt said: “This is a significant milestone for Thanet and marks the successful completion of the council’s bold move to CPO this iconic seafront site. The council’s intervention had widespread community support and was absolutely necessary to protect Dreamland and its important heritage assets, which had fallen into considerable disrepair.

“We believe the council’s actions have given Dreamland the best possible chance to be central to Margate’s future, as well as a much loved part of its past.

“Funding by the council, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG), the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) and National Lottery Heritage Fund has enabled transformation of this important heritage attraction, and we’ve already seen thousands of visitors head to our original seaside resort as a result.

“Sale of the entire complex will unlock the continued regeneration of other parts of the site and provide more opportunities for further investment and expertise that the council would simply not be in a position to provide, while protecting the elements that matter most to our residents and visitors.

Dreamland

“It is critical that we do all we can to support the local economy with many businesses affected by the widespread impacts of COVID-19. Today’s sale is the culmination of many years of hard work and I’d like to thank everyone involved for their support, in particular The Dreamland Heritage Trust, who have been a key part of ensuring that Dreamland’s heritage is protected and developed.”

Andrew Baker, Acting Chair of the Dreamland Heritage Trust said: “The Dreamland Heritage Trust consider that the sale of the Dreamland site should lever further investment into the site which will ensure that Sands Heritage Ltd. keeps growing Dreamland into a thriving business at the heart of Margate’s regeneration.

“Throughout the sale process we have been working with SHL, Thanet District Council and the National Lottery Heritage Fund to ensure that the heritage aspects of the park are retained and enhanced, both now and in the future.

“Following the sale of the Dreamland site we have reached an agreement with SHL as to how our two organisations will work collaboratively in the future. In this way the uniqueness of Dreamland – its heritage – is protected and grown in tandem with this new chapter of the Dreamland story.”

Conditions are attached to the sale to ensure that the listed heritage structures are protected and a restrictive covenant is in place to control future use of the site and retain this for leisure, in line with planning policy.

External legal advice regarding the process has been sought and Thanet council says two independent valuers were identified to ensure that the proceeds raised from the sale provide best value for the council tax payer.

The council’s obligations to the external grant funders have also been removed.

Margate Estates Dreamland hotel image

SHL plans include establishing a new seafront hotel and conference facilities. Hotel plans were submitted by Dreamland parent company Margate Estates and approved by Thanet council last year.

Last year 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.

Today she said: “We are delighted to announce the transfer of the freehold of the Dreamland Estate from Thanet District Council to Sands Heritage Ltd. We are confident our investment will be a catalyst in generating a positive seismic shift for Margate’s local economy.

“We are passionate about Margate and having committed significant investments already into the Dreamland estate, we know for Dreamland to succeed it is essential for Margate to attract domestic and international tourists as well as business trips all year round.

“Margate’s current economy is largely dependent on spring and summer visitors and our plan now is to build a business that supports Margate and Dreamland to benefit from extending leisure and business visitation into 365 days of year.

“Once the planning phase of the renovation is complete, we look forward to sharing the detail of our exciting plans.”

Test centre at car park by Dreamland Photo Frank Leppard

The park is currently shut with 52 members of staff laid off earlier this year due to the devastating impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

The amusement park had been due to hold its 100th anniversary celebrations this year.

Photo Dean Spinks

Dreamland investors Arrowgrass Capital Partners made the decision to shut down its master fund last year after a slump in capital and requests from investors to withdraw funds, according to a report by Bloomberg news. It comes on the heels of a legal wrangle over the exit of a senior executive.

Arrowgrass made an investment of circa £25million prior to Dreamland’s second reopening in May 2017.

Further Arrowgrass investment, including the purchase of flats in Arlington House, and discussions to take on the freehold and properties surrounding the park, followed.

Properties at Arlington flats, Marine Terrace and Belgrave Road are held under various branches of AG Propco Margate Ltd.

It is believed Arrowgrass could sell off current loans made to the park to another hedgefund.

Looking back: A Dreamland timeline of where it all began

30 Comments

  1. Whatever you think of this latest decision, Thanet District Council deserve praise for the Compulsory Purchase Order in 2013.

    They invested in restarting Dreamland and stopped the site being turned in to a housing estate. Other councils in the same position may have chosen to do nothing.

    • That probably would have been preferable-seeing what a total debt ridden, investment/ownership from tax haven investors, closing & relaunching debacle it has been since then.

      • As I said at the time, they should’ve built a road through the middle of Dreamland/Arlington, and then fully pedestrianised the seafront. A new funfair could’ve then been built down the road at The Lido.

    • I agree with Tom.

      TDC under the leadership of Chris Wells and managers attempted to regain control of Dreamland by forcing SHL into receivership by not completing their obligations thus forcing an offshore company to bail SHL out. I hope that SHL have learnt by that ghastly mistake and continue to improve the site not only for their benefit but for Thanet as a whole.

      • Don’t be silly it be cash now to pay for electricians to wire up like they did with Pleasurma .
        Gone are the days of walking into an amusament arcade on a busy day with petrol .
        Neither will help Jimmy .

  2. Yes the council compulsory purchased this site from owners at a low price. Are TDC going to pay the Godden family the difference. Its corrupt if they do not!

    • It would appear we have another local chap, kathy can something be done to make identities unique? Comment is nothing to do woth me. As far as i’m concerned this sale of dreamland is just another epic short sighted cash oriented mistake to join the others tdc have made over the years. I have no knowledge of the cpo or if the price paid was fair.

    • My guess is that an off the books deal has already been done, the park will be reduced in size and the land released sold onto a social housing provider and there’ll be another 3 plus blocks similar to the one at the back of the park already. That’ll more than cover the purchase price, no one will stand in the way. TDC have taken this decision to get a quick chunk of cash that will no doubt already be spoken for and do nothing longterm for the town.
      Margates future is now in the hands of shl, they have far too much of the seafront to be opposed. Lets hope what ever it is they have planned does some good for the town. But the way the deal has been done suggests not.

  3. Arrowgrass-a hedge fund registered in the Cayman Islands-tax avoidance. Selling off the company loans to other tax avoiding Hedge funds. How long especially in the current climate do you think until Dreamland-Sands Herigate had lost over 8 million from the 2017 ‘relaunch’ to the end of 2019-before the pandemic even happened is wound up & whatever real plans they have for the site emerge? Five years of a total disaster-bet TDC are elated to totally unload this disaster.

  4. Steve you are right they did loose money at the time because they were running the park exclusively to members only and charged at the door. The same director was in charge then they were forced to drop admission charge an fun park is for everyone not just the snob brigade.in the past the park was run by a company called association leasure who also ran the arcades on the seafront and the lido. All rides were operated by showman who paid the park for there space.They didn’t want people like show people who new how to operate a park.Yhey done their own maintenance of their rides.

    • I found it highly amusing that you couldn’t keep Edie Kemsley off the telly for two years talking it up-even before it had opened, then as soon as the you know what hit the fan she was nowhere to be seen as some other guy was making statements.

      Then it transpired she had quietly sloped away & was off running something called KidZania. In 2019 they bought back the failed CEO to run it again. Yet you look at her Linkedin page & she acts like she made it this huge success, dutifully handed it over & then they begged her to come back to save it from the mess it had fallen into under new management.

  5. Time will tell whether TDC has made a wise decision – if the same spineless bunch are around at Cecil Square (or wherever) HQ in 10 years time we may look back with regret.
    That said, the new owners stated aim of making Margate a year round venue is far more enlghtened than the clueless TDC Local (Concrete Over Thanet) Plan

  6. Wonder how many people here are moaning about the ownership of Dreamland going to a hedge-fund, but on the other hand are excited about the RSP Manston with their invisible off-shore backers…. ??

      • Strange its ‘our’ land yet the people we put in ‘power’s wont tell us how much they got for our land. Sounds all above board lol

  7. We shall see the true intentions in 10 years time. I’ll lay a pound to a pinch of s*** that there will be some housing on the site. They have to get their profit somehow..

  8. It is certainly not ethically or morally correct to hand over this heritage site to an unaccountable off shore hedge fund who will off load it to their financial advantage when circumstances dictate. Despite already having hoovered up millions of pounds of public funding the sunshine cafe and cinema are still in effect derelict and another Multi million pound
    Subsidy is being sought through the govt funded towns fund..what a scandal !
    Arrowgrass and it’s associates have already acquired a vast personal portfolio of local real estate and prime sites on the back of Dreamlands precarious financial situation. It remains to be seen if the town will benefit from this sell off

    • That’s £4 million of public money out of the Margate Town Deal fund which is being sought from Government with a Dreamland director on the board of the Margate Town Deal.
      Graham Razey you need to sort this dodgy deal out as you are ultimately in charge of the board. The board was set up to make Margate better with improvements to skills and enterprise infrastructure, planning, urban regeneration and connectivity, not to be pocketed by board members as was predicted by many residents last year when the board was sworn in. The whole fiasco stinks of corruption as usual.

      • Think you are right on that one Kent Resident. Very little transparency on the Margate Town Deal. Quasi public consultation exercise when things already decided. Can’t see how this deal should now fund any element of Dreamland such as the cafe renovation, as it is now in private hands. And smaller grants could have done some good to projects across Margate and made a real difference, but were ignored.

  9. So what’s next in the great world of corruption in Thanet under sea rides to the old pier that accidentally got burned down , or tours round the public toilets that are no longer there , maybe a raffle to sell of the Turner centre , all the monies raised through the years in seaside entertainment squandered stolen and put into bottomless pits with nothing to show , Margate has one of the best most natural seaside resorts in UK , all the parties who have been in charge have used and abused it drained every last penny from it’s laurels ,
    Why not rebuild what it’s natural asset is , the Beach , new toilets adequate rubbish bins free parking close the road make it pedestrian friendly street stalls pubs and restaurants that spill out onto the street come on Thanet buck your ideas up let’s have a Margate people talk about and come to see

  10. Why don’t the council tax payers be asked what the council spend, after all it is our money……….and what have they done? You travel along seafront all around the south of england, which look lovely, but Thanet council haven’t done anything and it’s embarrassing to show visitors the sea front at margate and all along, it’s dreadful. Cone on please TDC, DO SOMETHING PLEASE??

    • It’s true I travels fair bit around England and i always now when i am almost back. The litter, and weeds along the gets worst and worst, starts of ok as your entre kent fairly clean etc. By the time you reach the SE corner of kent it’s a s**t hole with a shed for the London art people.

      If kent is the garden of England than thanet is its compost heap

  11. It’s looking at the moment like quite a bit has been taken down in Dreamland? It’s seems a very strange time for a company to want to buy a theme park that has been closed for a year.. There definitely must be other plans for this space. And I’m sure although we don’t know what it’s been sold for, the Godden family will find out. As they will want their ££££££££££££££

  12. I would like to see a water park built inside and out. When these people have finished trying to to revive a old dinosaur that has had its day

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