Monday, April 26, 2010

Dream Scheme?

Word is leaking out over Twitter that our beloved council have called a press conference this morning to announce plans for Dreamland. According to yourfannitinnit newshound Tom Betts, the Duffers are thinking of ploughing £4m into the place, and invoking a compulsory purchase order to take control of the site. More news as it comes.

Update: The full story is now running on the Gazunder website. Apparently Thanet Council is committing £4m of our taxpayers sovs to compensate for the amount that the site's owners, Margate Town Centre Regeneration Partnership (aka Jimmy Godden), will not now be putting up due, one assumes, to straitened financial circumstances. It seems this would be for the purchase of the land from MTCRP, as TDC are threatening to compulsorily purchase it if they don't play ball. It's unclear whether this amount is for the entire site, or whether it's just for the half where the knackered old rides are going to be. In which case Our Jimmy will still be left with a sizeable block of land on which to plonk yet more 'luxury apartments'.

TDC's chief executive Richard Samuel says they hope to recoup the money once the heritage theme park is up and running, although the council's record of recouping anything is woeful (where's our £4m they spent on the M&S building in Margate high street?). And quite why they should be offering this dosh to Jimmy Godden, who did his worst to run what was still a viable attraction into the ground, and failed to comply with a notice to rebuild and reinstate the listed Scenic Railway after it burnt down in 2008, lord knows!

And how is it that the Jurassic Tory Junta can lecture us ad infinitum about the need to save money, close our museums and bogs, sell off tennis courts and run Ramsgate Harbour into the ground, when they can cough up what amounts to 3000 homes' council tax on a whim that nobody round here thinks has got a rollercoaster's chance in Margate of being a commercial success?

Click here for more on Gazunder website
Click here for more on Thanet Extra website

41 comments:

Anonymous said...

Great timing from a tory council at this election time!

Anonymous said...

Brought to you in association with swan vesta.

Richard Eastcliff said...

I presume you're implying that it'll be money up in smoke, 1:58!

Anonymous said...

Assuming it does indeed get hold of some 'classic' rides to enjoy, why don't you think it will be a success? I'm sure a fair few visitors to the Isle as well as locals will use it.

The Rock said...

Always enjoyed Dreamland as a kid so I would like to see it back providing it is well presented and run. Mind you this is Thanet and there is that element that moan about everything. Do nothing and they moan. Do something and they still moan. One thing is for certain, if it is a success somebody will complain about the numbers of noisy visitors it attracts and, if it fails, we can always blames the Tories!

Anonymous said...

there is a good reason why the rides that are going to be used for Dreamland are not being used in other amusement parks. Old, outdated, superseded are threee words that spring to mind.

there could also be a good reason why nobody else has built a heritage theme park in the uk.....perhaps its a terrible idea that is going to attract few and cost much.

However, lots of expediture for little return seems just about right for TDC.

Anonymous said...

so TDC weigh out £4,000,000 of our money with no certainty of a penny of it coming back? Who coughs up if it continues to lose money? Thanet council tax payers.

Anonymous said...

Money would be better spent on building a Marina type swimming pool back to Ramsgate.

Anonymous said...

I`m shocked at the idea of £4 million of Thanet money being spent in such a way without some consultation with the local electorate. Some detailed explaination of how the money might be recouped would be nice.
What a waste!

Anonymous said...

It must be great to have a big wedge of taxpayers money in your pocket that you can throw down the toilet any time you feel. I heard TDC had bought a pub in the middle of the Newington Estate. No doubt the useless Audit Commission will sanction this little escapade too.

And to think this is a Tory Council. A real Tory Council would leave development to the developers and would be focussed on cutting Council tax for the rest of us. I'd suggest Nicholson signs up Bayford and his chums. They're further left than Argyll.

Peter Checksfield said...

Hooray, about time they spent money on Margate instead of Ramsgate!

Anonymous said...

anon again!
I'd rather have seen the Turner money invested in Dreamland. It will certainly draw more crowds than it.
I would have the Dreamland site 'confiscated' from JG, before any more meets its 'match'!

Richard Eastcliff said...

I know you've only said that for effect, but what utter cajones Pedro! £60m of our money and rising is being spent on Margate. Here in Ramsgate the council can't even be bothered to spend a few bob keeping our harbour up to snuff.

The best thing that's happened to Ramsgate as far as attracting visitors is concerned is the burgeoning restaurant and cafe culture, which has had nought to do with pumping tens of millions of taxpayers' money into the place and everything to do with entrepreneurs and business people spotting Ramsgate's potential. I'm willing to bet that our restaurants will attract more visitors than the Turner and Dreamland MkII combined, and it won't have cost the taxpayer a single penny.

I'm not against the heritage amusement park per se, but I've yet to hear a single local person argue it's a good idea, let alone agree to pumping £12m of public money into it. I suspect that it will attract a few old bearded blokes in anoraks and that's about it. I also suspect that the Dreamland Trust is beginning to suspect that too, which is why they've quietly been dropping the word 'heritage' recently (now that they've got their grants) and saying it will need some new rides 'to attract the youngsters'.

Fundamentally I object to Thanet Council behaving like a property developer or events company using our money. Their track record in that regard is abysmal. They should leave it to the professionals and get on with doing what we pay our tax for - keeping the streets clean and safe, educating our young 'uns, marketing the island, dishing out the benefits.

Anonymous said...

Let em see....EKO another 2 million adrift - and failing to get money back for the EKSPDC infrastructure costs, TDC/Rock you are the weakest links good bye - and good riddance!!!!

Peter Checksfield said...

Of course I was being ironic, but I agree with other commentators that this stands far more chance of bringing in the crowds than the Turner Centre & is therefore (hopefully) money well spent.

I'd love to see the outdoor swimming pool / boating pool returned to Ramsgate, as well as The Lido pool in Cliftonville.

Anonymous said...

Of course you would, Pedro.
And we'll look forward to the black and whites of women that look like buoys.

Anonymous said...

A marina swimming pool will not bring anyone into the area , for the millionth time the Turner money was only there for that project and is not transferable to other projects.

There is a fantastic steam fun fair called Carters based in Berkshire that tours the South of England. All there rides are old ones , and It is wonderful and does great business to.

There a lot of families who like the idea of a park but do not want the terrifying rides that are more "modern" for often kids who are too small to go on them . Why can the Turner and the theme park not complement one another rather than be seen as competition ? .

I take your point about the cafe culture ECR but that is the kind of vibe that works for Ramsgate, and it would be better to see each town offering a different profile to attract a wider range of visitors.

I hate the local council but I think in this case they are right to support the heritage theme park idea , and it is clear from the comments so far that nobody has a sensible , viable alternative so unless you do stop whinging and embrace something that might actually be good for Thanet

Richard Eastcliff said...

I take your point 10:31 and to a certain extent I am only holding a mirror up to local opinion here.

Something has to be done for poor old Margate and the Turner and Dreamland are, it seems, the only games in town. Personally I think it's a shame that TDC hasn't taken a more nurturing approach to private enterprise rather than chucking wads of our money at the town, whether it be council tax or other money that comes out of my income as tax.

I don't begrudge paying tax and would even be prepared to pay a bit more, but I'd rather see the dosh drip fed into creating an environment where tourist related businesses could flourish than spent in great clumps on these grand public schemes which not many people think will work, and which have a woeful track record.

I wish the heritage theme park the best of luck though. It's still unclear from what I've read whether JG will benefit from this public munificence by keeping his 50% of the site. I think we should be told!

Anonymous said...

Re 10.31

As well as Carter's which reportedly 'isn't what it used to be' and doesn't do exactly a roaring trade, there are some fixed Heritage Fairgrounds - like Dingles, Folly Farm or, the largest in the UK, The Hollycombe Collection. The latter is in a wealthy catchment area on the brders of Surrey, Sussex and Hampshire - yet none attract more than 100,000 visitors p.a. They all find it difficult to make a surplus (profit if commercial)so where is the payback to taxpayers coming from at Dreamland?

If these established atractions are anything to go by, I suspect that Deamland will need to ditch the 'heritage 'label and then it wil be up against Alton Towers, Thorpe Park, Chessington etc. - 12 million is nowhere near enough for that!

Anonymous said...

TDC can't find £4.00 to support its existing heritage atractions like the Maritime Museum - so where is £4 million coming from?

Anonymous said...

one other thing to think about. When would the theme park be open? 365 days a year, or seasonal?

Richard Eastcliff said...

Here's the council press release:

"ONCE IN A DECADE" OPPORTUNITY FOR DREAMLAND

A "once in a decade opportunity" is how plans to take forward the regeneration of the Dreamland site in Margate are being described by Thanet District Council.

The proposals will go before Cabinet members at their meeting on Thursday (29 April) and update them on progress to date. The project is a partnership between the council, the Dreamland Trust and land owners the Margate Town Centre Regeneration Company. The plans would see Dreamland becoming the world's first amusement park of thrilling historic rides, creating a major new visitor attraction. It's predicted that it would attract over half a million visitors, creating several hundred new jobs and helping to regenerate the town.

The report asks for approval to put a total of £2.2 million into the project, which is within the council's existing budget. Funding for the project is already coming from the Sea Change fund, the Heritage Lottery Fund. Applications have also been submitted to English Heritage, Arts Council England, SEEDA and Thanet Works for additional funding. With the money from the council, expected funding could come to more than £11 million for the scheme, although this is still £1.8 million short of the full amount required. The council is still looking for this additional funding.

The report also asks for approval on transferring the land to the council. The landowners, the Margate Town Centre Regeneration Company, have already agreed, in principle, to transfer the freehold of the cinema building and land to the council. The council would then give the land, on a long lease, to the Dreamland Trust for a peppercorn rent. The council is aiming to complete the land transfer by the end of July 2010, but if this deadline cannot be met, the report asks the Cabinet to agree compulsory purchase proceedings. This would delay the project by 12 to 18 months.

Chief Executive Richard Samuel said: "This is very much a once in a decade opportunity to regenerate Dreamland and Margate and we know that's something local people want to see. Currently, this project is very much on track and the council wants to ensure that it continues to move forward on schedule. That's why we're putting forward these proposals. We also want to be completely open and show everyone where the money's coming from for this scheme and what stage we're at now.

"The Margate Town Centre Regeneration Company has been wholly supportive of the proposals from the beginning and we do have an agreement from them, in principle, to transfer the land at Dreamland to the council. Now that we've been successful in getting money from the Sea Change fund, the major risk to the project is the land transfer not going through. We have to set a timescale for that to happen. If it isn't completed by 31 July, we will have to start compulsory purchase proceedings. That's very much a last resort for us and not something that we'd enter into lightly. However, this is a once in a lifetime opportunity that we need to grasp and we're doing all we can to ensure that it goes ahead on time. Let's face it, we've currently got £8 million of public money on the table for this scheme and that's not likely to happen again in the next decade. Without that money, this project just won't go ahead."

Under the plans, visitors to Dreamland would be able to enjoy spectacular historic amusement park rides, many of which are the last surviving examples of their type. They would be built around the centrepiece of the park, the Scenic Railway, which is the UK 's oldest surviving wooden roller coaster, and fourth oldest in the world. Restoration work will also be carried out on the grade II* listed Dreamland cinema building.

The project is being run by the Dreamland Trust and, if all goes to plan, work will commence towards the end of 2010 and the park will open in summer 2012.

ENDS

Anonymous said...

Dickie my dear,

It seems to me the bit of dreamland left will be sandwiched between the railway, the amusement park, the current dreamland car park and the “quality” housing on eaton/belgrave road.

What luvverly type of development do we think is going to pop up here? Maybe a “bookend” development to compliment Arlington house, just like the Wynn and Encore in las vegas?

have we seen the plans for the car park and housing area?

The Rock said...

So, Anonymous 7:01, because I enjoyed Dreamland as a child I am suddenly the weakest link. Bizarre! Guess you must be on the left for you suffer their disease of denying all others a right to any opinion that differs from your own. For the record I would like to see the return of Dreamland and the visitors that went with it as, I suspect, would all Margate's traders. Meantime, you just keep on moaning.

Anonymous said...

ECR i agree with everything you say - since when has the council ever made a success of anything? i think it is time to declare UDI and ask the audit commission to come in and run the council, the M and S building is sitting as a white elephant. Better let private enterprise do what they do best.Instead of giving no incentive for anyone to do anything locally unless it is under the auspices of TDC.

Anonymous said...

Anon 2:04 PM

The published plans at http://www.joylandbooks.com/scenicrailway/heritageamusementparkmasterplan.htm show the layout of the new park.

Some of the existing car park becomes part of the heritage park.

Anonymous said...

Peter Checksfield says:
"..this stands far more chance of bringing in the crowds than the Turner Centre & is therefore (hopefully) money well spent."

I'm sorry Peter but "hopefully" doesn't really cut the mustard when taxpayers' money is involved. There must be a credible business plan and clearly defined limits to the amounts of money which could be made or lost on the venture. This wasn't done with the Turner centre and we now find out that the taxpayer will be subsidising each visitor to the tune of something like £16. This was not made known at the time Councillors were asked to vote on the project. How much subsidy will we be providing for this new little venture? I think a worst-case figure should be provided so that everybody knows how badly it could hit them in the pocket.

I'm not against subsidies but there are lots of amenities in Thanet which get b*gg*r all from the Council. It may well be that people would prefer to subsidise a new swimming pool rather than replacing Dreamland. If you aren't honest about the scale of the subsidy you can't begin to compare the merits of what this money could buy.

Anonymous said...

anon again!
you only have to look at the success's of Alton Towers, Thorpe Park, and even Chessington to see how crowds are 'drawn' to the attraction.
TDC would soon get their investment back.
NOW confiscate the ground and get on with it....enough talk!

Anonymous said...

Ask any outsider what they know/remember about Margate and they'll tell you the beach and Dreamland.......well the beach has never gone away thank goodness and now we have the hope of resurrecting Dreamland.......the only way is up...

ps... what's going to happen to that gaping hole along the seafront betwixt the tanning centre and cinema? and are they ever going to do anything with those two eyesores on Fort Hill opposite the new gallery???

Anonymous said...

7.25pm, I have looked at the plans and the area taken by the 'new' dreamland looks a fraction of the size of the old dreamland.

A smaller dreamland with not much room for old or new rides open for 5 months of the year subsidised by thanets council tax payers because tdc 'hope' to get our £4.000.000 back.

Would the odds on successful retrieval of our money be better served lumping it on the 2.30 at kempton?

Anonymous said...

Godden? In financial straits??
Don't make me laugh.

Anonymous said...

a herigate theme park......old rides.....nostalgia....


I can hear the Werthers Orignals and flase teeth rattling in the bottom of the waltzers already......

Anonymous said...

Dear Mr "The Rock", I agree with you that blinkered views - either from right or left-wingers - are negative and unwelcome. No political movement has the monopoly on getting it right or indeed on cocking it up. And it is facile to deride something good simply because it comes from those alien to your own point of view.

Sadly, you are displaying as much bias and prejudice as you are accusing others of doing. In your case you are favouring the politcal right. Your latest suggestion - that an allegedly blinkered commentator must be on the left - underpins my point.

The Rock said...

Dear Mr/Mrs/Ms. Anonymous 12:44 PM - Whatever has wanting to see Dreamland regenerated got to do with right or left politics and by what right do you assume to know which side of the fence I sit. I abhor bigotry from whatever source and, in particular as far as Thanet is concerned, those that always knock every suggestion for possible improvement from the Turner through Thanet Earth to Dreamland without giving it a chance.
Look around you. We have a lovely island but it suffers from lack of employment, low wages, run down areas and, in parts, a transient bed sit community. This has been the case for years despite changes of the political colour of the TDC or having a Conservative MP on the North side and a Labour one on the South. I wouldn't pretend to know what the answers are but just think it might help if, as Thanetians, we sometimes gave ideas a chance before knocking them.

Richard Eastcliff said...

I think there's a difference between 'knocking' ideas and testing them in the glare of public opinion, Mr Rock. You sound like one of those £100K+ senior council officers who's always banging on about knockers when his pet plans get a bad press, but carries on regardless.

Our council seems to run away with these schemes without the normal checks and balances that you would expect in a democracy. Unfortunately, as we have an ineffectual opposition and local press, it's left to blogs to put the contrary view. Why do you think there are so many blogs on such a small island? Don't you think it might be because people are disaffected and frustrated with our local authority and need some way of expressing that?

I agree that we live on a beautiful island that has been sorely neglected by national and local government of both political colours over the past 20 years. I also agree that something has to be done about it. But that doesn't mean we should unquestioningly accept the first hair-brained, multimillion pound, taxpayer funded crackpot scheme the powers that be come up with.

Thank goodness we still just about live in a democracy and are allowed a certain amount of free speech, even if Thanet Council would prefer to be running a dictatorship where anyone with a contrary view would be shot in the back of the head.

The Rock said...

Richard, I just loved the idea of that £100K salary but the facts are I'm an OAP on little more than the basic state pension. Also agree with you about not just accepting hair brained schemes but sometimes, just sometimes, it would be nice if certain folk gave them a chance before leaping to condemn.
As for the number of blogs we are not unique. Take a look at Anglesey, an isle with similar problems, and click on http;//druidsrevenge.blogspot.com when you have a spare moment.
Now there is a well informed Druid!

Richard Eastcliff said...

Perhaps it's something to do with island mentality then, Mr Rock!

But are you sure you're not topping up your pension with a blogging bung from TDC? ;-)

Anonymous said...

Rocky

TDC do themselves no favours. Saying £4,000,000 of council tax payers money is going to be spent and they "hope" to get our money back does not fill me with confidence.

Perhaps they deserve a chance if they publish;

detailed confirmation that the current owners are not going to profit in anyway from taxpayers money

detailed analysis on the expenditure - what we get for our money, whats left to the curent owners

a plan on getting it back, showing expected visitors/revenue against time.

We understand some grants have already been pledged and there are time limits on that. It would be foolish to throw the opportunity away. But the perception is that TDC are blindly lobbing our cash down an endless pit.

Why are they not working hard to change that perception?

Anonymous said...

A decent acquarium would've been a good puller and relevant to the seaside area. I support the art centre but not a load of knackered rides.

Malaprop said...

9.03 I agree with you entirely. I have also mentioned before that Tides swimming pool in Deal gets so oversubscribed at times that you need to get tickets to queue. Something like a fun indoor waterpark would be a huge draw.

'The Rock' I am the first person on here asking for more positivity with ideas for the isle, but I just can't agree that Dreamland or the Turner are going to be successful. A centre for rides that others don't want any more does not seem a good use of taxpayers money. Only a small portion of people are going to want to visit the Turner as well. We are now only a 1.15 hour journey by train to central London, where would you go to look at art?

Finally this buy back idea is a joke. £4 million for what? I thought the government came out with a strategy for forcing land to be used. If the current owner can't afford to do anything with it, he should be obliged to sell at a market price, maybe even through auction. You can bet £4 million would not be the figure.

The Rock said...

'Fair' enough, Malaprop!