Kent

Margate Dreamland heritage plan backed by Appeal Court

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Media captionThe council has £10m of funding in place for phase one of the redevelopment

Plans to turn the derelict Dreamland site in Margate into a heritage theme park can go ahead following a Court of Appeal decision.

Control of the former amusement park passed to Thanet District Council in May after a High Court judge backed a compulsory purchase order.

The previous landowner, DreamlandLive, was seeking to reverse the decision but lost its appeal on Tuesday.

Appeal judges said Margate was "in urgent need of regeneration".

It was "inevitable" the council's plans would have been approved, they added.

Dreamland fell into disrepair after it closed in 2003. Its Grade II* listed Scenic Railway ride was damaged in an arson attack in 2008.

Celebrity designer

The authority wants to redevelop the site into a heritage theme park with historical rides, classic sideshows, vintage cafes, restaurants and gardens.

It has £10m of funding in place for phase one of the scheme and has also drafted designer Wayne Hemingway in to its planning team.

Clive Hart, leader of Thanet District Council, said he was confident the theme park would pay for itself.

"We've done the sums and we've got really good people in place.

"There's going to be a lot of publicity and I think it will be something that will snowball once it does open.

"I'm sure it will go from strength to strength."

'Former glory'

During the Court of Appeal hearing in September, Richard Glover QC, for DreamlandLive, told the judges the compulsory purchase order should be quashed as Communities Secretary Eric Pickles's conclusion the council's plan was "commercially viable" was legally flawed.

But the order was ruled lawful by Lord Justice Goldring, Lord Justice Elias and Sir David Keene.

Lord Justice Elias said: "It is universally recognised that Margate is in urgent need of regeneration.

"Sadly, like many other seaside towns, Margate has lost much of its former glory and is now one of the most deprived areas in south east England.

"A regeneration of the amusement park on the Dreamland site is one of two key features in that regeneration project, the other being the now-completed Turner art gallery."

Compensation claim

DreamlandLive's alternative plans for the site include an amusement park and up to 500 homes.

But the judge said only Thanet Council's plan was satisfactory in a planning inspector's view.

In a statement, DreamlandLive said it would put in an application for compensation to the council and that bill, along with the authority's lack of expertise, meant it would "have to go begging cap in hand to Kent County Council and the rate payers of Thanet".

It continued: ''We are sad to lose the appeal in the court, but we will not now be making any further applications.

"As a consequence the local authority are free to develop Dreamland as they see fit.

"The Dreamland Trust and Nick Laister were put forward by the secretary of state as successful business people. Time will be the proof of the SOS's comments and the TDC [Thanet District Council] trust in the Dreamland team.

"So far there is no evidence that either Dreamland Trust or TDC have any clue how to build an amusement park, let alone a successful one."

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