Council leader says reallocation of £4 million Town Deal funding turned down by Dreamland should be used for Margate Winter Gardens

Council leader Rick Everitt at Margate Winter Gardens

Thanet council leader Rick Everitt says a £4million Town Deal allocation which has been turned down by the new owners of Dreamland should now be invested in the Winter Gardens.

The money from the £22.2m Margate Town Deal fund had been earmarked to be used towards the renovation and reopening the Dreamland  cinema building which has been empty for more than a decade.

The site was to be turned into an entertainment and conference centre, providing spaces for hospitality and catering and also exhibition and pop up spaces.

The ground floor was also to be used by charity People Dem Collective for a two year period while they worked to secure permanent premises.

In January 2021 Dreamland provided a dedicated space for People Dem Collective on the seafront for them to operate from. It is understood that these premises have been provided during the last three years free of charge.

But the park’s new owner LN-Gaiety – a subsidiary of concert and festival giant Live Nation –  has decided not to go forward with the project with Dreamland CEO Eddie Kemsley (pictured) saying: “We will develop a plan for the cinema building that is both financially viable and in keeping with Dreamland’s history of entertainment.

“With that in mind we have taken the decision not to accept the £4 million from the Margate Town Deal fund. We hope this money can be redistributed to other projects to benefit the regeneration of Margate and its legacy of leisure and entertainment.”

Council officers are now engaging with the team at People Dem Collective to understand their position and any work they have been doing to identify a more permanent position for the charity.

Thanet council now needs to reallocate the £4 million to other Town Deal projects.

At a council meeting last night (February 22) Cllr Everitt said: “I will be quite candid that I believe this money should now be spent on the Winter Gardens. It is not sufficient to carry out all the required work but it is potentially a huge step forward in our determination to restore and reopen this cherished and iconic local facility.

“First however we do need to understand from the government how it interprets the flexibility it has given us in the Simplification project but we are already seeking its view.”

The Simplification scheme allows Thanet council to manage funding for the Margate Town Deal, Levelling Up projects and the Future High Street Fund as one £51m pot and means funding can be moved between the different projects.

Thanet Conservative group leader Reece Pugh said although Dreamland’s decision to back out of the project was “disappointing” he backed the view that the money should now be reinvested in the Winter Gardens.

Margate Winter Gardens Photo John Horton

Margate Winter Gardens currently has a £300,000 allocation for appraisal of the venue and to market the building.

The original bid for the Winter Gardens had been for £4 million but government requested a long term plan and at that time the council did not have a proposal with a potential operator/partner and so the bid was changed to £300,000 for the structural surveys and related reports.

The council has so far spent or committed £162,03 of the £300,000 on surveys and reports and appointing specialist marketing agents, leaving £137,997 for further legal costs and any other requirements.

A two stage marketing campaign was launched last December with agent Colliers and open days have been held for potential interested organisations.

Previously a report to councillors said an immediate cost of £2.5m is needed for structural , building and mechanical and electrical works with a further £3.5m estimated over the next 10 years and total costs estimated at £6.25m.

However, the costs are now likely to be much higher due to inflationary pressures.

The Winter Gardens hosted its last performance on August 7 2022 during the Margate Soul Festival before the lease was returned to Thanet council by Your Leisure and the doors were shut in readiness for the appraisal report on the venue and its future uses.

An update on projects that were allocated funding as part of the Margate Town Deal are due to be discussed by Thanet council Cabinet members on February 29.

New Dreamland owners LN-Gaiety turn down £4million of funding from Margate Town Deal

Sale of Margate Winter Gardens no longer ‘on the table’ with long lease option now preferred


  1. I would much rather some of the Margate College money be reallocated to the Winter Gardens too instead of the Council being railroaded into giving a 125 year lease at peppercorn rent.

    • Abso-effing-lutely!

      I’d also like to know what Rick’s views are on the Turner charging an entrance fee, something I believe Barry Lewis rightly suggested recently.

  2. £4m , that will pay the experts to look into the Winter Gardens ,to see what has to be done, because their costs will rise because of money in the air principle

  3. I personally think it should go on art projects

    Is there any point spending that money on the WG if TDC dont have the funds to maintain it properly ?

    • The arts should fund themselves ,with an entry fee .Charge £5 a year to get into the shed called Turner Centre and then see how arts lovers would pay to to see the exhibits,practically none I bet

      • Surely in the most deprived region of the south east and in the middle of a cost of living crisis, with a government that wants schools to focus only on Maths and Science, the arts should be accessible to everyone regardless of their ability to pay.
        Culture is a necessity NOT a luxury.

        • So, live music and theatre isn’t culture? And if they are, then why should one get preference over the other?

          • As a multi-instrumentalist and show-off I most certainly am kot saying that live music and performance isn’t culture.

            I’m simply saying that depriving the less-well off of freely accessible art would be a mistake.

        • Let art lovers pay then, why should art be free,and not sport or music,a £5 entry fee to Turner centre might help

          • Free entry to the gallery has brought many thousands of people to the town. Local businesses, and by extension residents of Margate, have benefitted hugely but the Turner Gallery. If you put a charge on entry to the gallery Margate will be poorer for it.

          • So you believe, after they’ve gone to the time and expense of travelling from outside the area, that they wouldn’t bother coming if they had to pay £5 to get in?

        • Cost of living crisis ?

          I thought everyone had received a 16% increase in their income over the last 12 months.

          Oh silly me, That’s just TDC Councillors. No cost of living crisis there !

        • Cllr. Bright is correct-the current government is trying to turn universities and colleges into purely practical educational centres, cutting out languages, the liberal arts in general,literature, philosophy and other subjects, while keeping the more recognizably useful maths and science subjects. A very sad situation.

          • The only languages really needed for British people are British languages. That’s why – as a 2nd language – I’m studying Welsh. Most Europeans speak English anyway.

          • Why is it sad that university and college courses are being designed to match the needs of employers and the future job market ?

            Common sense I would say.

            The fact that Broadstairs College offers a qualification in Butler Skills but needs £7m of taxpayers money to offer new courses in digital skills tells you all there is to know about what happens when education providers are left to their own devices to dream up courses. This should have been in place and being delivered years ago locally.

        • It shouldn’t be but the state of our current area and increasing poverty of the many should initially focus on basics like the desperate need for council homes, help with local healthcare, support for our local schools and maintenance of amenities for a start. Spaffing £4 Million on the Winter Gardens is ludicrous. Has no-one at TDC learnt from the outrageous failure of the Dreamland project? The economy is going down the drain and we must protect our communities from poor health, nourishment and inadequate, over-priced housing and ending homelessness.

        • However there are many of us that feel that the basics of education and preparedness for the world of work are more important that fanciful flights of fancy of a career in advanced finger painting.
          Maybe its only me but i seem to feel that the art and music created by those who were educated in a 3r’s system seem to have produced better materia than much of the playgroup level junk we see presented as art these days.
          Some of the exhibitions in the Turner really have been no better than letting primary school kids loose with the paint and dressing up box, with the advantage of having had a few ladders to build bigger weird stuff.

  4. Wow ! I never though id agree with a TDC Councillor! . I would also like to see this “windfall money” go to the beautiful Winter Gardens before it mysteriously goes up in flames ! . This lovely old building deserves to be brought back to life and used as it was intended. I am positive this,in the right hands can be a money spinner again attracting big stars and acts back to Margate again .

    • when it closed its doors Paul palmer was the Winter Gardens manager for your leisure. It had been running at a loss when he took it over but he brought it back to breaking even. He had some great ideas and was as passionate about it as most of us are and was convinced he could bring it into profit.if he could be persuaded to come back he would soon have our theatre back on its feet

      • Paul was an excellent manager, and he did indeed turn things around to a large degree during his time there, bringing lots of big name acts that quickly sold out. The decades of neglect for the theatre had already taken their toll though, and the venue was forever being patched up… which is why it peeves me so much that Turner Contemporary got a rewiring just a decade after it was built, payed for by US.

  5. So Reece Pugh is disappointed, its about time these councillors start thinking about their own assets and not a private companies, they should never have been allocated any of the money and I totally agree that the arts should start paying their way. I am sure this council only went down the art route as its free money.

  6. Demolish it and build back better. The brief for the replacement should be low maintenance, with solar panels and maybe a wind turbine. The architecture of the existing building might have looked pretty when it was new. Now it’s ridiculously over- designed with pointless nooks and crannies. It’s listed; so what? So was Wembley Stadium and the pier at Brighton!

    • Better still, restore it – by taking the roof off the (smaller) Queen’s Hall and turning it back into an open-air venue.

  7. Surely if the previous bid for additional funding for want of a detailed proposal and instead WG got 300k to help come up with a proposal , plus as recently reported the monies for all the projects are now deemed insufficient , its most likely the 4 million will be spread across the projects that had approval.
    The Citizen Smith Tribute group ( DEM collective ) have had a freebie for 3 years and it must be assumed been working hard to raise money to secure their future, have they done anything else in that time?
    It’s a bit of a push to expect the gov to allow the funds to be transferred to a project that was previously turned down whilst watching approved schemes whither on the vine.

    • They should give each of the other projects more funding as it was announced years ago what would be handed out for the approved projects and the cost of those projects will have increased somewhat by now no doubt.
      How come the Cliftonville shelter at Newgate Gap is still derelict in the diabolical form of a rusty steel shell with wood panelling box in the middle? When will TDC use some funding to improve the look of the area and fix all the shelters boarded up and fenced off in Cliftonville? If they are looking at where to spend this funding then it would make a good start.

      • Why can’t locals do fundraising events (ie. quizzes, fetes, etc) to raise money to repair the shelters, as they did in Birchington and Minnis Bay? The money is certainly there – as proven by the way funds were quickly raised for a music venue in Margate – but it seems that the will is not. Maybe YOU, KR, can get the ball rolling? I’ll give you a fiver.

      • In respect of the Newgate Gap shelter it seemed to escape the councils thinking that giving it to someone with convictions for fraud at least one of which was associated with art was likely to be problematic, hard to believe that any substantial donor would want themselves linked to such a person. Given the epic lack of any progress or improvement several years in, it must surely be time that TDC invoked any Clawback clause that you’d hope were part of any agreement.

  8. With all the issues in thanet and money required for various more deserving schemes, it will be put into what is the bottom less pit of Winter Gardens. What a waste.

    • As opposed to the bottomless pit of the Turner you mean? The WG would be a massive success too with free entry and new electrics every decade,

  9. Well lets hope it’s not sold off or let to the new owners of Dreamland LN-Gaiety once all the reallocated funding is spent on the Winter Gardens, as then they still get the benefit of the £4 million.
    How is the marketing for a new leaseholder going anyway? Any punters yet?

    • On the contrary, letting a successful well financed and astute compny take the place on would likely be the best option, so long as any agreement includes the guarantee the building is saved as an entertainment centre.

      All the talk in this thread and no one mention of the theatre royal, which if it were to be TDCs only project then conceivably they might have the ability to raise sufficient finance and wherewithal to keep it as a TDC asset and run it on that basis.

      The Winter Gardens under TDC is never going to be a success unless they buy a winning euromillions ticket and even then they’d still manage to run out of money early.

  10. Hate to say this, knock it down and replace it with a new modern theatre ( better design than the toilet block down the road) and make the gardens respectable again. But before all that reinstall the shelter overlooking the harbour and burn that camper an that has been parked there for months

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