Assael: council's Margate Dreamland plans are doomed to fail
John Assael has hit out at a ruling which paves the way for Margate’s abandoned Dreamland site to be turned into a heritage theme park
On Friday (17 August) Thanet District Council won approval from the Secretary of State for the compulsory purchase of disused seafront plot - a move which will see it turned into a £10 million Coney Island-esque attraction with historical rides and sideshows.
However Assael of Assael Architecture, which earlier this year unveiled its own home-led vision for future of the former fun park on behalf of the site’s original owners the Margate Town Centre Regeneration Company (MTCRC), was dismayed by the outcome of the public inquiry.
Assael said: ‘It is a very disappointing result for the people of Margate. This important site - and the cinema - can offer a real regeneration opportunity for the town. Instead the council’s proposals for a heritage amusement park will have very limited appeal.
‘My view is that long-term it is going to fail’.
Assael’s concept £20 million scheme for MTCRC included 474 homes built around ‘a vibrant cultural and amusement hub’ made up of the existing listed structures, many of which date back to 1920.
The practice was the fifth to be appointed on the project - previous firms to have worked on regeneration plans include Levitt Bernstein (AJ 17.11.09) - and the only one to propose protecting and reusing the Grade-II* listed cinema and scenic railway as part of a low-density housing scheme.
Assael added: ‘The [authority’s] proposals have no budget or ideas for the repair of one of the most important Grade II* cinema in the country. This is shocking.’
Following the decision the council will have to secure the titel to the land before access to the site can be granted and work can begin.
Leader of Thanet District Council, councillor Clive Hart, said: ’This is a key step to unlocking the regeneration of the Dreamland site and means we can start to move in the right direction, in partnership with The Dreamland Trust, to progress the future of the site which has been vacant for a significant amount of time.
‘Dreamland is such an important asset for Thanet, and for thousands outside of the area, so we’ve always been clear that doing nothing is simply not acceptable.
Hart added: ‘It’s taken a lot of hard work and determination to get to this point, with the council spending more than £1 million on carrying out urgent repairs to the neglected heritage assets.
‘I’m thrilled that the Secretary of State is confident in our plans to help secure the regeneration of Dreamland, and today’s announcement moves us closer to delivering this greatly anticipated amusement park.”
Chair of The Dreamland Trust, Nick Laister, said: ‘[We are] delighted that the Secretary of State has backed our plans to reopen Dreamland as a major seaside visitor attraction of regional and national significance. We were confident that our plans would be found to be robust, deliverable and in the public interest.
‘The Trust was very pleased to support the council in its efforts to secure the site to enable us to implement our vision, which has been shown time and time again to be the development that the people of Thanet most want to see happen.’
He added: ‘The residents and businesses of Thanet, and its many existing and future visitors, have waited far too long for work on this project to start. With our funding in place and our plans drawn up, today’s news is hopefully the final major hurdle that we will have to cross.
‘The Dreamland Trust is ready to make a start on site and we hope to have Stage One of the project fully open by Easter 2014.’
The Dreamland Trust is working in partnership with Thanet District Council (TDC) to create the world’s first amusement park of thrilling historic rides, classic side shows, vintage cafés, restaurants and gardens with special events and festivals and to celebrate this important part of our popular and youth culture heritage.
The Dreamland Trust emerged from the Save Dreamland Campaign to rescue the park and its heritage assets including:
- The 1920 Scenic Railway - the UK’s oldest roller coaster and a Grade II* listed structure.
- The 1935 2,200 seat Grade II* listed cinema building - a super-cinema forerunner.
- Lord George Sanger’s Grade II-listed menagerie cages dating back to the 1800s - believed to be the last remaining type of their kind.
Dreamland’s description is an ‘amusement park of thrilling historic rides’ – it is not a fairground, fun fair, fun park, theme park or heritage park.
The Dreamland Margate project has grown out of a vigorous and widely supported community campaign to save the site from redevelopment into housing and retail units.
The Dreamland Margate project is funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, the Department of Culture, Media and Sport’s Sea Change programme and TDC.
TDC served a compulsory purchase order on the Dreamland site owners on 3 June 2011, which went to Public Inquiry in January 2012.