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Assael reveals home-led rival to council-backed Dreamland plans

Assael Architecture has unveiled its vision for Margate’s Dreamland site as the battle continues with Thanet District Council over the future of the former fun park

The images have been released on behalf of the site’s current owners, the Margate Town Centre Regeneration Company (MTCRC), as a public inquiry rumbles on into whether the authority can compulsory purchase the land and create an amusement park of historical rides.

Assael’s £20 million scheme for MTCRC includes 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 is the fifth to be appointed - 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.

The cinema will be converted into a cultural and artistic hub, renamed Dreamland Studios, and will feature ‘reversible interventions’ while preserving the organ, circular staircase and first floor rooms at the front. The rest of the complex would be adapted to house an art gallery, recording studios, a radio shack, artists’ studios, a performance space, a café, a conference and events space as well as accommodation for artists.

In 2005, the controlling ownership of Dreamland passed to MTCRC which is objecting to the compulsory purchase order. The company is joined in its battle against the authority by the Close Brothers bank, which is owed £6 million from mortgages on the site and is understood to be willing to lend MTCRC at least half of the estimated £20 million development costs.

Last year the Heritage Lottery Fund granted £3 million to the Dreamland Trust as part of its bid to re-open the historic attraction. The campaign group has also been promised £4 million from Thanet District Council.

A final decision on the planning inquiry is expected to be made by the secretary of state in June.

Margate's Dreamland cinema

Margate’s Dreamland cinema

Architect’s view: The Assael vision

Around 50 per cent of the site area will consist of the ‘Dreamland Park’, offering a number of features such as a secure Scenic and Heritage rides area, carefully designed with level changes to provide security without giving the impression of exclusion. There is also a large landscaped public park providing a much-improved setting for two of the listed assets: the rustic wall - menagerie enclosures - animal cages and the Scenic Railway.

The residential development has been designed as predominantly a housing scheme in terms of land allocation. Most of the site (70 per cent by land allocation) is arranged in clusters of low-scale houses and maisonettes of no more than four storeys. The remainder of this site, 30 per cent, proposes apartment buildings between three and seven storeys to address the issues relating to visual screening and environmental amelioration. The mix of the units has been informed by the desire to attract ‘aspirational’ purchasers that will act as a catalyst in regenerating Margate.

In addition to this, the landscape finishes are designed to accommodate fairs, visiting heritage rides and other temporary attractions. This ability to support a number of temporary events is one of the main propositions of the strategy. Hard finishes, temporary power and water points will ensure that this space can attract a variety of uses. 

All external spaces are connected by a large south-facing area referred to as ‘The Square’ which forms an open-air hub of the entire complex.

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