Dreamland Opening is Delayed

21/02/2011

THE full reopening of the Dreamland heritage amusement park has slipped from next year to 2013, as complications continue over ownership of the land, reports This is Sussex

The Dreamland Trust has promised rides and attractions will run during 2012 on the former Margate funpark, and has announced ways for people to get involved in the renovations to the Scenic Railway. But the opening of the site will now be delayed until 2013 at the earliest, it was said this week.

Thanet council hoped the Dreamland site would be transferred from its owners, the Margate Town Centre Regeneration Company (MTCRC), in July 2010.

When that deadline passed, the council instigated a Compulsory Purchase Order (CPO).

That was due to start after Christmas, but the council is now blaming changes to land ownership for the delay. A spokesman for Thanet council said: “The MTCRC has changed the ownership of a number of land parcels within the site.

“This has forced the council to do more due diligence work and to serve new requisitions for information, all of which has to be completed prior to the serving of the Compulsory Purchase Order.”

In April the council said “if all went to plan” the park would open in summer 2012, but this week council leader Bob Bayford said it would be 2013.

If the CPO is not contested, the process could be complete by June. If there is a public inquiry, it may take until October.

Toby Hunter, from MTCRC, said the issue of land transfers was a “red herring” and that the real issue was that Thanet council was unable to agree how much development would be allowed on the remainder of the site.

The MTCRC wants to build new homes and has been trying to work with Thanet council on the number and type of dwellings.

Mr Hunter said: “The question is why is Thanet council pursuing a CPO at all? We are supposed to be working together, but that has become very frustrating as it is not clear what the council actually wants from the enabling development.

“We have a 16-acre site and are being asked to give up eight acres for the heritage amusement park. We are happy to do that, but we need to know what we are going to get in return.”

Mr Hunter said that MTCRC had bought the Dreamland site for £12 million, but that Thanet council would hope to use a CPO to obtain the land for about £3 million. He dubbed land valuation “a dark art, not an exact science”.

Mr Hunter added: “This is now not about urban regeneration but about a vendetta. The people have got to ask if they have trust in the council as custodians of their money.”

Nick Dermott, Thanet council’s heritage adviser, said: “The scaffolding going up around the site is the clearest sign that we are progressing with the plans.”

Jonathan Bryant, project director of the Dreamland Trust, added: “The official opening may be put back slightly, but we are committed to offering attractions this year and next. We have always said this is a phased project.”

So far 65 companies have sent in tenders for work to make the cinema and ballroom watertight.

And companies from Europe, America and India have expressed an interest in renovating the listed Scenic Railway.

John Lawson’s Circus and Carter’s Steam Fair are coming to Dreamland this year, and the Dreamland Trust says it is considering installing a viewing platform for people to follow the renovations to the Scenic Railway during 2012.

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