Investment Zone ‘expression of interest’ made by council for Ramsgate Port, Manston airport and Dreamland

Dreamland, Manston airport and Ramsgate Port could become 'Investment Zones'

Thanet council will make an expression of interest to have three new investment zones on the isle.

Thanet District Council has been working with Kent County Council, government officials and stakeholders to develop expressions of interest for the Port of Ramsgate, sites across Manston including Manston Airport, MoD site and Mountpark and for Dreamland/Arlington.

In September Kent was named as one of 38 areas earmarked as an investment zone in the now sacked Chancellor of the Exchequer Kwasi Kwarteng’s mini budget.

One of the aims is for accelerated development, meaning there will be designated development sites for housing and commercial development. The need for planning applications will be minimised and where planning applications remain necessary, they will be radically streamlined.

Businesses in the designated sites will benefit from time-limited tax benefits such as 100% business rates relief on newly occupied and expanded premises, and full stamp duty tax relief on land bought for commercial and residential development. Accelerated development will also mean more land for residential and commercial development,.

According to the government, Investment Zones will be “designated sites where businesses will benefit from time-limited tax incentives and streamlined planning rules to deliver investment, create jobs and build the homes that communities need”.

Kent County Council as the Upper Tier Authority for Thanet will be responsible for submitting an application to central Government, including the expressions of interest from the district councils within the county.

Potential Thanet sites

Thanet council leader Ash Ashbee has approved the in principle expressions of interest at the Thanet sites.

The Port is owned and operated by the council but Manston airport and Dreamland are privately owned.

A decision notice published on TDC’s website says: “If any of the expressions of interest in Thanet are successful, this does not mean that there is approval for an Investment Zone.

“There will be subsequent decision gateways and development phase to put together a delivery plan. The delivery plan is required to ensure that the Investment Zone meets the strategic, delivery and legal expectations set by central government.

“These delivery plans will need to confirm that sites will represent value for money for taxpayers and deliver the growth objectives set out through the Investment Zones programme. At this stage it is not clear how this process will be managed, the timescales linked to this, and what central government’s guidance is for the next process.”

Ramsgate Port is also included for regeneration and development under the £19.8million Levelling Up Fund.

Dreamland has a £4million allocation from the Margate Town Deal fund 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.

The allocation 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 in 2020 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 bulk of Manston airport is owned by RiverOak Strategic Partners which currently has an approved development consent order from government to create an air freight hub at the site. RSP paid £16.5 million to buy the airport site from former owners Stone Hill Park in 2019.

Urgent decision

The expression of interest decision has been made under ‘urgency procedures’ and is exempted from call-in.

Thanet council says this is because of “ timescales set-out by central government between the announcement about Investment Zones, releasing the guidance and the deadline for submission means that Thanet District Council has been unable to move through the formal decision making process.

“This would normally include a Cabinet Decision and time for call-in from Scrutiny. Following the guidance there was only two weeks in which to develop the expressions of interest before the submission deadline. These are in-principle expressions of interest that will require further development if successful, and therefore will follow due process.”

Thanet Green Party councillor Mike Garner said he is extremely concerned at the investment zone proposals.

He said: “I am extremely concerned that these three areas of Thanet have been nominated as Investment Zones without the council having any clear idea of what that means for those areas.

“ A number of organisations like the RSPB and CPRE have already highlighted that any further weakening of planning regulations is likely to lead to further harm to the environment and can be seen as an attack on nature.

“I agree with them and believe that we should be working harder to deliver the affordable housing and new job opportunities needed within a framework that protects and enhances our environment rather than ceding control of large areas of the district to developers who are looking to make money ‘at any cost’.”

Thanet Labour Party leader Cllr Rick Everitt said: “It is right that the council takes opportunities to support regeneration, but the government has rushed this policy out and there is insufficient clarity about what they involve. Cllr Ashbee referred to the benefit of business rates from a reopened airport at council last night – is the council now willing to forfeit them?”

Government Bill to remove EU retained laws branded ‘an attack on nature’ by Kent Wildlife Trust


  1. I rather suspect that this all might be a bit academic.
    The government has made so many “U” turns over the last few days that it’s anyone’s guess what might or might not happen.
    But even if it does: what on Earth is the point in backing three lame donkeys? It sort of puts Ashbee in the same stable as Truss.

    • Andrew you may well be right with Liz Truss sacking kwasi kwatang and replacing him with Jeremy Hunt and her party concerns about her being P M in the not to distant future. I do worry about the environment and the governments new relaxed policy on land sounds like a carve up, I don’t trust builders in doing anything right by nature especially the netting of trees etc.

  2. My memory of the last labour government did they say there is no money left another attempt to keep the Arlington end derilict it’s not election time until next year locally and a general election the following year there are rules about early electioneering.

    • Yes Brian, but the ‘no money left saying’ was meant to be a joke in rather poor taste,by the colourless Liam Byrne.
      Actually, the Labour Govt borrowed rather less to shore up the British banking system, than Boris Johnson has done to fund cronyism, fraud and useless NHS covid apps.
      Either you have a selective memory or a failing memory, which is it?

  3. The mainstay of the airport lot is “No use of taxpayers’ money

    Well this announcement shows that isn’t at all true

    • Agree regarding Dreamland as I have used the Winter Gardens and the Theatre Royal and am not bothered if don’t visit Dreamland again!

    • it is owned by a hedge fund in the Caymans. Without their loans the fiasco of Dreamland would have died just months after it opened & after it reopened-while building was still going on & they couldn’t even get the ribbon cut on time.

      The park re-opened on 19 June 2015, garnering much media coverage.[27][28] BBC Radio Kent spent the opening day broadcasting live from Dreamland. Additional rides opened in July.[29]

      On 8 December 2015, Sands Heritage were forced to apply to the High Court for a company voluntary arrangement (CVA) in relation to a debt of £2.9m owed to Arrowgrass.[31] This amounted to the original £600 000 owed as a secured loan, plus unpaid compound interest and charges.

      Wonder how long this place can remain open for, all it has done it put the Winter Gardens out of business by putting on live events, as it clearly could never survive as an actual amusement ride park & being promoted as the hip place to be-hooray!

  4. When you look at the detail the proposed sites make sense for one reason, and one reason alone.
    They will provide public money to businesses that want money-laundering opportunity or the ability to function without being subject to the laws and rules that protect our economic and personal health and wellbeing (or both).

  5. Just read in my newspaper that Doncaster Airport is closing sacking 800 staff, due to lack of demand! Doncaster is much better located than Manston ever can be geographically, and has failed as an airport how many times, at least 4 I believe, due to lack of demand!

    • Both KCC in 2015 & an independent report last year came to the same conclusion-there is no demand for a freight airport there & it is not financially viable-like every airport operator there since 1998 that has lost money on it, when Wiggins bought it.

    • Being that Manston Airport will concentrate on freight, I don’t get your reasoning behind this comment. Its like saying Dover is in the wrong place, yet its one of the busiest RoRo ports in the world! And as for lack of demand, not surprising if the airport couldn’t offer the infrastructure to support and increase in freight operations. After all it only had one operational freight stand.
      The Invesment Zone is good news, but I doubt RSP asked for it!

    • However do you think Doncaster is better situated, Manston is in a far better situated place on the coast, even the RAF knew that, it’s a gateway to Europe

  6. Be very, very careful about these “Investment Zones”, “Free Zones” or “Free Ports” or whatever name they masquerade under.
    We should note that very few well-run, developed economies have them. (Switzerland has a few, for keeping art works in warehouses along with other dodgy possessions , away from the prying eyes of the public who wonder who owns them and how they got them.)
    By doing away with a lot of normal taxes and planning checks, they ,usually, DON’T attract new investment or jobs. They draw existing firms to relocate inside the “Zones”, so escaping taxes and regulations outside.
    Far from creating jobs, a “Zone” in, say, Ramsgate would lead to a loss of jobs in Margate or Birchington as firms shut up shop and move into the “Zone” to get a tax-free period.
    After a while, of course, the tax-free period ends but dishonest governments and local Councils will just announce another “Zone” (let’s call the new area an “Enterprise Location” and the process starts again, but with politicians pointing out what a good job they are doing. And they may even point to all the new workplaces setting up in the “Enterprise Location”, and conveniently ignore the point that similar workplaces are closing down within a large radius.
    The current government were toying with the idea of “Freeports” not long ago and I was horrified to see some Labour-run Councils in Northern towns being attracted to the idea. It gave them the image of actually “doing something” about poor investment in their areas. But it just proved that some Labour politicians are as clueless, or as deceitful, as their Tory rivals.
    Don’t touch these special, low tax, low regulation “Zones” with a bargepole.

    • Everything that Keefogs says is correct, the other name for them is Charter Cities (have a google), looks great but when you dig into the detail you read that areas are corporate owned. Would you like decisions on your health care being made in an off shore boardroom?
      ‘A charter city is a type of city in which a guarantor from a developed country would create a city within a developing host country. The guarantor would administer the region, with the power to create their own laws, judiciary, and immigration policy outside of the control of the host country.’

  7. Dear Ash Ashbee,
    I am afraid that is not how Investment Zones are likely to work.
    The Tories are in a fix, because PINS is acting like an enforcer on housing supply and the centrally allocated housing numbers (19k for Thanet?).20 Tory councils are already in default of the rules on planning rejections and may find the commissioners are being called in to run their planning offices, Uttlesford being the first.
    Other Tory Councils are dropping local plans like hot bricks because Liz Truss said that centrally allocated housing allocations were ‘Stalinist’.
    The Tory membership that elected Truss and the Tory voters don’t want houses, yet the people that part fund the Tory party ( Taylor Wimpey, Barratts etc) do. There is a housing shortage, mainly in houses for families, single people and anyone on a low income.The builders want to build cheap houses and especially 4/5 detached houses.They don’t like s106,or CIL or any other levy on value.They don’t like ‘affordable houses’ and they don’t want to pay tax.They find environmental restraints irksome.
    Kwasi Kwarteng (remember him) came up with the Investment zone idea,as a wheeze, so that the 300k per year houses can be built, and those protected by green belts,SSI’s,AONB, won’t have to worry their middle class heads over nasty old housing estates, spoiling their serenity.
    Like everything else in the last few years, months,and weeks,this scheme is ill thought out, and is likely to cause more trouble down the line for the Tory party, as if it not had enough.
    Unless, Ash, you want houses built on Manston, Ramsgate Harbour and Dreamland, it isn’t going to happen.
    Its’s too late anyway, because KCC has dropped this lovely prize on Dover + Folkestone, where they can build houses.
    Where are you Craig? Come out, come out, where ever you are!

    • George Nokes I take it you you will be standing for election to Thanet Council next year or maybe a Couny Council vacancy If not why not? You seem to know everything about everything , the failings of national and local government and on an earlier thread this week you mention German and Swedish health systems. The list goes on and on. I love the way you recall Liam Byrne and describe him as colourless. Really George your talents are wasted.

  8. The article refers to the Levelling Up Fund money but then moves on to this new wheeze. What has happened in Ramsgate as a result of gaining the Levelling Up money? Nothing that I can see. Where is that money? Now you see it – now you don’t. And, no doubt, a consultant is laughing all the way to the bank.

  9. Massive conflict of interest from Cllr Ash Ashby who has publicly supported the re-opening of Manston Airport as a member of SMAa. Someone should complain about her un-councillor-like behaviour: Perhaps Craig Mackinlay could start a petition. I’d sign that one.

    • Craig already has started a petition I think it’s last day is today its against Ramsgate Town Council and he is in favour of the airport no I’ve not and won’t sign it but I did go on line to see what it was as its a government one you have to give all your details and then confirm that it’s you by a email clicking system. Good thing you can’t get the one person doing loads of votes as you can only use your email address once.

        • You wished lol I signed the cpre on line which has thousands more votes than Craigs one but you forget as I’ve previously stated I’m not anti or for it, my concern is that why are we building so many houses on arable land when we need to grow more food stuff here instead of importing so much I’m not on about crops we cannot grow because of the climate but those we can cauliflower for one we have imported hundreds of tonnes when the fields in thanet grew hundreds of tonnes now have houses on the area, I see both sides of the argument if we build on arable land we import more food stuff perishable foods need quick transport ( airport) no housing on farm land ( no airport needed) it really is as simple as that.

  10. It’s sad that a town as big as Margate doesn’t have a cinema, would be great to have one at Dreamland again.

    • I totally agree with you . I wonder if the Art Deco features are still in the old Dreamland cinema ?
      Probably not ! I wonder why the owners of Dreamland haven’t as yet re opened the cinema
      The one downside to reopening the dreamland cinema is where do you park the car safely ?
      Margate also had a 2nd cinema in the 70’s/ 80’s called the Plaza at the top of Margate high street .
      Do you Remember that ?
      I remember fondly seeing “ The Blues Brothers “ film there before it became a film classic .

      • “The one downside to reopening the dreamland cinema is where do you park the car safely ?”

        The NPC and Dreamland main car park behind Flamingo.

      • Don’t forget the cinema by the harbour which is now the indoor market, it closed early 80s and then became a snooker hall

  11. A Freeport designation would be far more useful. It must fall within a maximum 45km circle. If carefully drawn that could just about cover Dover, Manston, Ramsgate, Whitstable, Canterbury and the UK end of the Channel Tunnel. What’s not to like about that when levelling up?

    • “A Freeport designation would be far more useful. It must fall within a maximum 45km circle. If carefully drawn that could just about cover Dover, Manston, Ramsgate, Whitstable, Canterbury and the UK end of the Channel Tunnel. What’s not to like about that when levelling up?”

      You’re aware the freeports are actually going to be “charter cities” and be free from tax law, the WT directive, hard won workers rights like min wage…right, pal? Look at how Grover Norquist and the rest of Farages backers FORKED that up…

      “Honduras was a key battle ground for the modern Charter City initiative prior to Brexit. Following Romer’s failed attempt and a subsequent change in legislation by the Honduran Supreme Court to outlaw ZEDEs, a new government bowed to another initiative that was launched for a fully private ZEDE. Erik Brimen, formerly of Babson Global, returned with the financial backing of American billionaires including Peter Thiel, CEO of Palantir and co-founder of PayPal with Elon Musk, to try again. Brimen came incredibly close to realising the first truly privately operated city in Honduras, forming his company/town Prospera and attracting a significant amount of investment before ultimately the project imploded. The neighbouring town of Crawfish Rock was connected to Prospera’s water supply at Brimen’s direction, following issues with their own system. He then went on to use the water supply in a power play during a dispute with the residents of Crawfish Rock and eventually cut the town off. He continued to aggravate locals in a series of heated public exchanges over their concerns about the true intentions of his project and a lack of transparency over plans for future land acquisition. Following a significant period of protest Honduras elected a new government who promptly repealed the ZEDE legislation that permitted Prospera’s existence and the project eventually collapsed. The example of the water supply in this situation is a basic yet clear example of how private companies, particularly those led by dangerous idealogues, will behave when given complete control of a territory.”

      If you want that for East Kent, you’re a kant…

  12. Ewan Urzarmi I agree although I’ve not been inside a cinema since 1969 apart from a couple of wrestling shows, there are cinemas in Westgate the carlton, Broadstairs the Palace & westwood x the Vue, dreamland I understand will be opening after £4 million makeover as an entertainment and conference centre with space allocated for local community use,

      • Peter I’m not a film person I’m into sports in old days playing and watching nowadays mainly television as not able to afford the expenses, but I have no objection to cinemas or films as family all love films so I have sport and documentaries, but my music is what really matters, going 2 to 3 times a year to the cinema is not a lot new films may not be to you & your wife’s taste then Peter, its good that we all have different tastes other wise a lot of bored people around,

  13. Sounds all good news to me. Get this area off the ground – in every sense! It has languished in deprivation for far too long – as a backwater where crooks and chancers wash out to from the capital. And nothing much of any worth large-scale goes on. The chattering classes …chatter (like on here), but it’s all just talk. This kind of investment will be a game-changer and stands to change the face of Thanet. If the fuddy-duddy element (young and old) doesn’t like change …maybe their days are over. Not before time!

  14. Can’t wait for the penny to drop and everyone to realise these are a mini version of the “freeports” aka charter cities/towns planned up and down the country. Low pay, no workers rights, no working time directive, no minimum wage.

  15. My personal opinion is our local Thanet district council just run property’s into the the ground just like the winter gardens for instance but that’s just my opinion.
    So couldn’t care less what the local council propose

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