New chairperson needed for Margate Town Deal Board – and concerns raised over ‘Dreamland’ question expulsion of People’s Panel member

Margate Photo Steven Collis

Margate Town Deal Board is recruiting for a new chairperson.

The role was originally held by Graham Razey, of the East Kent College Group, but he stepped down in March to concentrate on the Margate Digital project; a specialist industry-focused centre positioned in Margate High Street. The project is subject to a £6.3million funding bid to government.

The position was taken by David Smith on an interim basis but recruitment for the role is now open again.

Margate is set to receive up to £22.2million of funding from the Government’s Town Deal programme.

The funding was awarded after Thanet District Council – working with a dedicated Town Deal Board– submitted its Town Investment Plan to the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government in December 2020 for a bid of £25 million.

In March this year it was announced that up to £22.2million had been agreed for Margate. Detailed business cases for selected projects in the Town Investment Plan (TIP) are being worked on.

Those projects include renovation of Dreamland Cinema; working with Work Wild Ltd to establish a new Creative Land Trust w; investing in the Theatre Royal and a major project at Walpole Bay, which will secure long term affordable space for creative industries; investing in the Theatre Royal and a major access scheme at Walpole Bay.

The funding will be spent over a five-year period, steered by the Margate Town Deal Board. The overall programme is managed by Thanet District Council as the lead accountable body.

The chairperson role is voluntary and the aim is to lead the Board and keep an overview of activities.

The role is for a minimum one year period with meetings every two months.

An outline of requirements and details of how to apply can be found by clicking here

The project also has a People’s Panel made up of 65 members. Thanet council deputy leader Reece says there has been a significant increase in young people on the Panel (under 30s) as well as better representation from members of the community from ethnic minority groups.

The Panel’s role is to help the Board understand public opinions and put forward their ideas to ensure the Town Investment Plan Board decisions reflect Margate.

However, earlier this month resident Peter Blem was expelled from the panel after asking questions about the £4million Town Deal funding allocation for Dreamland.

Photo Frank Leppard

Mr Blem says he questioned whether the amusement park would still be eligible for £4 million after it emerged that Dreamland’s parent company Margate Estates has marketed an offer for acquisition of  the entire estate assets, including the Dreamland car park purchased from TDC, parcels of land surrounding the site inclusive of the plot secured for a new 124-bed hotel, and the option to purchase Arlington House, multi-storey and land.

Mr Blem said during the most recent People’s Panel meeting he was nominated by a group to ask about the Dreamland allocation.

Following the meeting Mr Blem received an email to say he had been removed from the panel for ‘disruptive’ behaviour because he “put a question across that was not relevant to the session being hosted and prevented other views from being heard.”

He refutes any allegation of breaching the rules and is waiting to be supplied with links to the meeting recordings from Margate Town Deal, so he and others can review his behaviour on the Panel.

Cllr Barry Lewis

County Councillor Barry Lewis has now raised questions about the allocation, stating that as Dreamland chief exec Eddie Kemsley  is also chair of the People’s Panel, he believes there is a conflict of interest.

Cllr Lewis said: “Dreamland was (allocated) 20% of the funding for ‘levelling up’ Margate.  Dreamland is a private company, up for sale, and even though legally the chief executive of Dreamland can be on the town deal board I would say it it a clear conflict of pecuniary interest.

“When the question about the £4million to Dreamland was asked by a member of the public, that person was expelled from the panel, so as well as having a pecuniary interest she appear to have shut down debate on the issue.

“This is why I have stepped in to support that member of the public who appears to have been victimised for asking a legitimate question. I am now publicly expressing the opinion of many of my constituents when I say the Dreamland CEO should have no place in this process.”

In response a Thanet council spokesperson said: “Providing any conflicts of interest are declared and managed in a transparent way, then there is no reason why projects put forward by organisations linked with board members cannot be taken forward.

“Other Town Deals across England have awarded funds to projects supported by board members. For example, Blackpool & Fylde College is part of the Blackpool Town Deal Board and will receive funding as a result of their Town Investment Plan. NewRiver Retail Ltd also sits on the Bournemouth Town Deal Board, and is one of the major land owners of the area that will benefit from the Town Deal masterplan project.

“The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, in their guidance and requirements for setting up the Town Deal Board, included the need for private sector representatives, land owners and investors. Eddie (pictured above) has many years’ experience of working in both public and private sector organisations and her interests have been declared in an open and transparent way. We value Eddie’s commitment, experience and contribution to the Margate Town Deal Board.”

The allocation for Dreamland is to be used towards the renovation and reopening the cinema building which has been empty for more than a decade.

The site will be turned into an entertainment and conference centre with space allocated to community use – understood to be the People Dem Collective group which headed up Black Lives Matter demos last year – and charities.

But the funding has caused controversy with some questioning why the privately owned business is receiving public funds. The Dreamland estate was sold by Thanet council to park operator Sands Heritage Ltd last year for £7million – £2.3 million for the Dreamland estate and £4.7million to buy the car park area which was finally handed over this month.

The estate was also the recipient of some £19.4 million public funding from the Department for Culture Media and Sport’s Sea Change programme, the Heritage Lottery Fund and Thanet District council prior to its first reopening in 2015 and further funding towards work at the cinema building and Sunshine Cafe by now collapsed firm Coombs.

The listed Dreamland Cinema Image courtesy of The John Hutchinson Collection, Campbell Reith Collection, RIBA archive

In June this year the real estate and leisure company which owns Dreamland was put on the market and is being offered for ‘acquisition’ through property specialists Jones Lang Lasalle (JLL).

It means the entire Dreamland estate, including the Dreamland car park purchased from TDC, parcels of land surrounding the site inclusive of the plot secured for a new 124-bed hotel, and the option to purchase Arlington House, multi-storey and land, is being offered as assets for investment.

An update on the town deal project from Cllr Pugh says: “Since the final project list was submitted to the Government on 8 June 2021, the project team has begun working with project sponsors and delivery partners on preliminary business case work and carrying out early due diligence.

“The Board will be utilising external expertise for technical aspects of the business cases where needed which is currently advertised on the council’s procurement portal.

“It’s a busy and exciting time.”

Margate Town Deal projects chosen for funding from £22.2 million pot

£4million Town Deal cash towards entertainment and conference centre plans for Dreamland Cinema

Sale of Dreamland owning company means entire assets – park estate, hotel plot, car park, land – and option on Arlington on market

Resident expelled from Margate Town Deal People’s Panel after ‘Dreamland allocation question’


  1. I’d like to see Barry Lewis become the new Chairperson. We need someone who asks the right questions.

    • Doubt it will happen, the job ad might as well specify must be spineless & in it for the glory/ego, as that is all Kemsley wants-just somebody to nod through money for Dreamland & her pals & their vanity projects.

  2. How on earth is this being swept under the carpet ? The current sale of Dreamland lists the opportunity to gain £4m of grant funding as one of the key selling points. It is being used to inflate the price that anyone has to pay for the site – to maximise profits for the current owners and the Chief Executive of Dreamland is a key part of the panel in charge of the money which includes this £4m.

    This stinks to high heaven. I’m not surprised TDC are trying to ignore it. If there is a scandal to sweep under the carpet then they have been there and done it but surely no one in their right mind actually thinks this is all above board and transparent ? To be silencing people on the “people’s panel” is something you would expect from some tin pot dictatorship rather than in a progressive democratic country.

    The people’s panel should all resign en masse and all write to the Government and National Audit Office asking them to get involved. This is a once in a generation opportunity to invest in Margate to improve it for our future residents and visitors. Please don’t let it turn into the proverbial pigs with their snouts in the trough.

  3. I asked to be on the board when it was set up, but i was not included even though i was and am still am the ELECTED county councillor for Margate. If invited I would be willing to represent Margate residents on the board. But i am not holding my breath as i am NOT part of the thanet business/political establishment.

    • You are the exact opposite of what they are looking for-they just want somebody to nod things through without any scrutiny, so the gravy train can continue. In this climate arts grants & councils are bending over backwards to throw money at anything calling itself arts or cultural enrichment.

  4. Who the hell is Work Wild Limited? And what are they going to be doing? Based in Shoreditch, one Director, Sarah Kate Mcconnell Turnbull. It is a management consultancy that appears to have an outstanding bank loan of £50000 on Assets of just £19179, £8115 of which listed as computers of which £1936 is listed as disposals (money comin back in). Pretty clever to get cash back on used computer kit. Does anyone know what this project, intends to do for Margate residents?

    • Entities like this and the Community Interest Companies. (CIC) are the new ideas for ways in which to spend taxpayers cash. A bit like charities but with the incovenience of having to raise money . Sort of the evolution of such things in the wake of the Kids Co. farce and the bad publicity that surrounds the way some charities have gone about fund raising and the anount that goes to the Fund Raisng Companies.
      The Film Foundation , Peoples Dem Collective and GRASS all form part of the same model. In the fullness of time it’ll no doubt be revealed which of these and many others across the nation fullfill their purpose and which are little more than co,mpanies funded by the taxpayer.

    • Sara Turnbull (Director, Working Wild) is a chartered environmentalist, social entrepreneur and an award winning leader in sustainability and delivering social value. Sara leads and shapes social enterprises, charities and other organisations committed to creating a more sustainable world. She has woven together work in architecture and engineering, affordable workspace, venues and events, and community development. As a passionate speaker, consultant and non-executive she is committed to addressing climate change and the wealth gap by delivering work that makes places and organisations better for everyone. She speaks Japanese and is a keen sailor who dreams of more life afloat, being a builder and growing a forest. Sara is a work activist & wild advocate who wants to make work work better for everyone. Her debut book with co-author Jeannette Pearce (JP) – Better Off Working Wild: How changing the way we work can make us all better off – offers practical solutions and actions to create a better and more sustainable way to work and live. With this book, Sara and JP hope to create a movement of ‘work activists & wild advocates’ – individuals, teams and organisations who strive to be more human, are connected to the ‘wild’ and are fully engaged in their work. Better Off Working Wild is due to be released in September 2020.

  5. Dreamland is not Margate. It has very separate ambitions and always has had. It has, over the years, done the absolute minimum for the community. It has hosted some events. Where was the offer to provide space for porta loos or the invitation to use its toilets when we needed them? We are told the CEO has expertise and valuable experience. Where is the evidence in the success of Dreamland? When I think what this company could have offered it’s community I am just disillusioned. I wait to see the detailed business plan for how this £4 million might be spent. If it is to be for a cinema how much will it cost a local family to go to see a film? Will it offer a Saturday morning cinema club for children?

    • Went to dreamland on Friday. Despite Million being given. Peaks season and an oppertunity to bring revnue to other businesses it remains closed. Why ?

  6. Not much will be left out of the £22 million once all the consultation companies fees and expenses get syphoned off. What a scandalous situation the MTD are in. Dreamland sold for £7 million by TDC just before an announcement to give them £4 million back in even more public funds. The money pit is now up for sale again at an undisclosed sum. Must be a profit in it somewhere. Dreamland today is being run with a reduced entertainment lay out with hardly a percentage of rides that used to be there a decade ago. It has converted into a music venue for the younger generation. There needs to be transparency on what is going on or people will rightly believe that it is all being covered up in dodgy deals. Not unheard of in Thanet though is it?
    To dismiss a member for asking a question about Dreamland’s involvement then TDC stating everything is transparent is a sign of the Chair and TDC Execs in some sort of cover-up.

  7. I think the whole board should be replaced.
    No doubt after the next meeting there will be another article about people being expelled from the people’s panel for saying what everyone else is thinking. Has anyone actually seen the ridiculous amounts of money being thrown away here?
    Never mind feasibility studies of this and that, how about just fixing the public toilets at the clock tower and the harbour arm and doing something with the museum and buildings in the old town, or are they being deliberately run down by TDC so it ca be sold off on the cheap?

  8. Peter Blem asked the question that is on the lips of every resident: why is the Dreamland £4m still going to Dreamland when it’s up fo sale? Why on earth di they think it’s disruptive to ask such an obvious and very important question?
    The whole people’s panel is a box ticking stitch up. No questions allowed!
    This council actively works against the interests of residents and tax payers.

  9. I have asked Private Eye to have a look at this ‘Rotten Borough’ – again. Maybe others could too? National newspapers might be interested if anyone has the contacts?

  10. Not that it makes it completely ok, everyone seems toforget that the grant money has to match funded. So its not a complete freebie. Which is probably why TDC weren’t able to put in a bid to do anything more than a survey at the wintergardens

  11. I wonder how the group calling themselves GRASS are going to match fund the £500.000 they have been allocated. I also see that one of their group is on the MTDB.

  12. Match funding can include the cost of volunteers’ hours.

    Dreamland needs to do the right thing and put the £4 million back in the pot. That money could be used so much better. Time for Dreamland to stand on its own two feet.

    • Goodness me, how many volunteers hours will be needed to match fund half a million pounds for the Oval Bandstand!

      • No person on the MTDB should be allocated funding for their pet projects. Besides Dreamland I agree with Ella what about the Oval bandstand. One of the members on the board is involved with the bandstand, surely it is a similar thing to Dreamlabd.

  13. Dreamland are saying this money is so they can create a conference and entertainment centre. Well we have that already just down the road its called the Winter Gardens. Strange this property is owned by TDC and therefore its owned by us the rate payers. Surely that money should be spent on what TDC own and not be given to a private company who intend All very very strange

  14. What is Barry Lewis’s aim here? He’s accused someone of something untrue (chairing a decision-making board, when they chair the people’s panel). Then he admits it’s not illegal but still calls out for resignation. I dislike much of what TDC does but in this case, this money is for renovating the derelict Dreamland cinema, seriously who in Thanet does not want that building open? Public or private money, throw the book at it, get it open it will benefit the town and beyond.

    • Its conflict of interest. I have never said dreamland should not have the money, . She should not be involved in giving the money to a company who pays her wages, simple to understand repeat its a conflict of interest.

    • The book was thrown at the Dreamland heritage park, Elaine, because it was thought it would benefit the town and beyond. Millions and millions, but It still went bust. It’s reopened, but bears little resemblance to the heritage concept so lavishly funded by the taxpayer. It is still being wet-nursed by the council and has the same CEO as the one in charge when it failed the first time. Who do you think will be the eventual winners? The speculators or Margate?

  15. A large proportion on this funding should be going towards ESSENTIAL projects like good toilet facilities, a good camper van parking area etc. Not all the arty projects which have a limited audience. What about a really good kids playground area? I have family in Devon and the kids all clamour to go to the play area by Paignton beach – not just in summer – so what something like that which will attract families. And a good skateboard park. And Dreamland should definitely NOT receive any of this funding. If it does it just proves the cronyism which exists in this area.

    I too am appalled at the amount of such funding which is always spent on so called ‘consultants’.

    • The Dreamland estate was sold by Thanet council to park operator Sands Heritage Ltd for £7million at the end of last year. The company iacting on behalf of Margate Estates Limited (MEL) to dispose of circa 17.5 acres in the Kent town, which in recent years has been christened ‘Shoreditch-on-Sea’. It is looking for offers in excess of £15m for the portfolio
      In addition to £4m of grant funding? Nice work if you can get it!

  16. I have many memories of Dreamland as a child growing up. Going to Saturday morning cinema for sixpence, going to the roller rink, then to the Rendezvous Club etc. Wonderful times. But you can’t recreate the past – life moves on. The big problem of having the cinema restored is going to be parking. If I have the option of going to The Vue or Dreamland, it will be to The Vue for ease of parking and no charge. As for a conference centre, I have spent 30 years of my working life working as a conference planner organising conferences and events around the world for many major companies. Margate simply does not have the large good quality hotels to support a good conference centre, nor good large restaurants, nor the transport companies etc. etc. So, perhaps I should become a consultant……….!!!

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