The Dreamland estate was sold by Thanet council to park operator Sands Heritage Ltd for £7million, it has been confirmed in a report today.
The sale, one of the biggest asset disposals in Thanet council’s history, included the amusement park, the TDC restored Dreamland cinema and Sunshine Café building and the 400 space car park.
Part of the sale income has paid the compulsory purchase order compensation to the park’s former owners DreamlandLive -formerly Margate Town Centre Regeneration.
Total CPO compensation and related costs will amount to £5.8 million, of which £2.15 million has already been paid.
In 2008 the Scenic Railway was partially destroyed by fire after an arson attack. The then owners pledged to rebuild but Thanet council threatened to compulsory purchase the site if it was not repaired. That CPO was served in 2011 and approved by government the following year but protracted legal arguments meant notice to quit was not served on DreamlandLive until 2013.
At that time, the scenic railway was burnt down, the amusement park was closed and there were no plans for redevelopment.
In 2015 the park reopened with Sands Heritage Ltd (SHL) at the helm 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, which had contributed £8million. Investment was also made by SHL.
But the operators 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.
Hedge fund Arrowgrass then bought SHL shares, 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 investment resulted in a second ‘reopening’ in 2017 with a greater mix of music and events running alongside the amusement rides.
The sale of the Dreamland complex freehold was agreed in principle by the then-Conservative run council in August 2019 after ten months of talks with SHL.
The following month Dreamland investor Arrowgrass Capital Partners made the decision to shut down its master fund after a slump in capital and requests from investors to withdraw funds on the heels of a legal wrangle over the exit of a senior executive. Arrowgrass is expected to sell off its interest in the park.
The freehold transferred to SHL last December. The terms include a restriction prohibiting housing development at the site for 10 years to tackle any possible planning application outside of leisure uses. Conditions are also attached to ensure that the listed heritage structures are protected and the council has secured undertakings from SHL that the same number of public car parking spaces will remain.
The purchase price was made public today (February 22) when a report on the transaction was released. The report says the council obtained two independent valuations for the site and the disposal price exceeds these two valuations.
The report shows the sale of Dreamland park, cinema, scenic railway, rides and intellectual property, completed on December 18, was for £2.3million and the exchange of contracts for the sale of the car park, which took place on the same day and should be completed in April, was for £4.7m.
Council Leader, Cllr Rick Everitt said: “I was part of the Cabinet that took the decision to issue the CPO, so I’ve had a particular interest in the project. It felt then that the CPO carried risks, but the alternative was to leave the site, which is in a prominent location in Margate, derelict and unloved. We knew then, as now, that Dreamland carries a special place in the hearts of many people, both in Thanet and beyond.
“What successive councils have achieved is a major success story – Dreamland now is unrecognisable, compared to 2013. It has involved excellent partnership working with the Dreamland Trust, Government departments and the operator, SHL. The project has survived the operator going into liquidation and a pandemic.
“There are still challenges, not least for the new owner to manage the re-opening of the park as part of the eventual recovery from Covid-19. But we want to continue to work with SHL to maximise the success of Dreamland and the regeneration of Margate. I am grateful to all the council officers who have worked so hard on it over so many years. This is a Thanet success story and should be celebrated by all involved.”
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 in 2019. Currently the amusement park is shut and 52 staff were made redundant due to the covid restrictions.
So the CPO of the Dreamland Park has cost £5.8m and TDC has sold Dreamland on for £2.3m – making a loss of £3.5m. for the council tax payers of Thanet.
It is only to balance the books that the car park has been added in for an additional £4.7m.
Don’t forget the other 8 million TDC put in according to the article and yep certainly looks as though the carpark was to balance the books and given the amount paid its not destined to remain a carpark for long. On the bright side the owners of the houses fronting the road (eaton rd?)and the arcades etc are probably worth a bit more now. Any bets on how long it’ll be before the master plan emerges? Along the lines of to keep Dreamland going we need to ………
A 10 year moratorium of building homes on the site is not long. It could take that amount of time to gain control of Arlington House car park and commercial buildings.
Speaking of which. How long is TDC going to wait for the commercial buildings and area to be developed or is this another residents asset that they will just close their eyes to and hope that the issue will just go away. There must be something that the council can do to force the leaseholder into action.
It won’t take that long – Arrowgrass has the option to buy the lease by April of next year – after which the purchase of the freehold from TDC is a formality.
Personally I dont think that planning permission would ever be given for development of the car park. Historically it was a flood plain and I have been told that boats even used to moor in there. It would be very hard to get any building insurance and drainage would be a problem. I think any applications would be refused on environmental issues.
Can’t polish a turd.
Yet again tdc sell,sell,sell.
Could try to sell councilors but no value, at least turner centre is still getting £££££ spent for no return. Sad day for Thanet and it’s won’t be the last shame on you all tdc
The plot has many uses, it will be land banked with future development planning permission (like manston airport site off similar)
Great its being sold off, that amusement area has seen its day. The new luxury/high tech Swanscombe amusement site would have taken most of the dfl and many other visitors.
Good idea to sell off that council asset other council assets for disposal do not seem to be advertised on the open market ?
One substantial (nice plot) a carpark on marina road ramsgate is (or was recently) an asset disposal. its where the travellers often reside.https://www.thanet.gov.uk/info-pages/asset-disposal-list/
Dreamland has the been the oddball , it was only offered to one buyer , never went on the open market and had the sweetener of the carpark added , which surely should have gone to auction like many other council disposals that aren’t transferred to community groups. Will the valuation reports be published? No commercial confidentiality issues now that the site has sold, any chance of some transparency?
The so called jewel in the crown of Margate for 100 years sold off to a company with just 10 years stipulation on no development. Great, there will be nothing left to attract the punters into Margate then. Was this not put in the local plan to stay as leisure purposes only indefinitely?
Remind me did Jimmy Godden own the site before it mysteriously burnt down?
More no-news un-newsable news. Blah blah, no point putting an opinion as it won’t be posted.
Are you sure? This is a prime example of what is wrong with TDC – another gift to their chums at the expense of residents now and in the future.
You probably give them too much credit. Looks as though the stories of a botched CPO process might be true hence the reference to the related debt. TDC has no money to pay the debt or meet its Brett/Port Ramsgate obligations , including the 11k a week road haulage costs, don’t suppose the real story will ever emerge, but wouldn’t be hard to believe its a result of lack of investment/ planning.
Whatever the case SHL and Freshwater must be rubbing their hands at now having effective control of such a chunk of the Town. They now have the town by the short and curlies.
TDC is not fit for purpose – it either sells off or leaves derelict prize assets – cueless, no business sense and no bottle when it coems to negotiating a deal – complete mugs when it comes to matters like this.
Too many officers and councillors have been around too long – they do as they please without regard to the long term interests of the area, one thing I do agree with Trump ‘time to clear the swamp’.
Drain the swamp Blue Fox! Trump added to it, by using members of his family as “Advisors”, handing out lucrative contracts to his cronies! I don’t expect thats happening at TDC do you?
More council officer pay rises on the cards. Yay!
Maybe the councillors who voted for this should shoulder the increase in this year’s council tax as they are the ones who have almost bankrupt TDC shame on them.