Labour and Conservative councillors engaged in a constant stream of bad mouthing and undermining of the Dreamland Trust, the organisation originally supposed to be running the theme park. Senior council officers less than supportive of the Trust, excluding it from l decision making even though the Trust was the Heritage Lottery grant recipient. The selection of a park operator was a highly questionable exercise which had to be carried out twice and which resulted in the appoint of a company with little experience of running an amusement park. Challenges to the probity of the operator selection process which led to Sands Heritage’s second application to be the park operator being ruled out of consideration on the basis of secret legal advice. Warnings, from external property consultants GVA Grimely that the Dreamland project was high risk withheld from councillors by TDCs ruling Labour Cabinet and senior officers. Councillors misled and misinformed by officers and Labour Cabinet members about progress on the Dreamland project. Relations between Thanet Council and the Lottery Heritage Fund (HLF), who invested £3.8million into the Dreamland Project, almost broke down with HLF threatening to withhold grant payments because TDC was withholding information. A reckless drive to open Dreamland as quickly as possible, even though works to the park were not competed and the Scenic railway not ready. The misuse, by Thanet Council, of £550,000 HFL grant funding. Threat of legal action by Sands Heritage against Thanet Council leading to the payment of £900,000 compensation by TDC. TDC effectively “giving away” the Dreamland site to Sands Heritage with a 7 year rent-free period and rental kick-in clause which means that its highly unlikely that any rent with ever be paid at all during the 99 year lease term. This means that the £7-£8million of TDC taxpayers invested in the project will never be recovered.
Although I hate to admit it, responsibility for this litany of disaster, incompetence and maladministration rests not with the council’s current UKIP leadership, but firmly on the shoulders of the previous Labour administration. It was former Labour Leader, Iris Johnston, who pushed this project through at a recklessly dangerous speed, despite warnings of risk, in the hope of securing political kudos in the run up to the 2015 elections. It was serving Labour councillors Michelle Fenner, Peter Campbell and Jenny Matterface and wanna-be “revenge” councillor David Green who supported Johnston’s ego-fuelled dash to prematurely open the park. Johnston, Fenner and wanna-be “revenge” councillor Green were all members of the Labour-controlled Cabinet who oversaw the disastrous project management of the Dreamland project, but failed to challenge and scrutinise the incompetence and secrecy which was a feature of this saga.
I have always supported, and continue to support, the concept of Dreamland. Planned and managed properly this project could be a powerful engine for economic regeneration in Thanet. But sadly Dreamland has been blighted by ego, personal ambition, self promotion, political manipulation, incompetence and maladministration and maybe even some dodgy dealing as well. We now face the very real possibility of the administrators having to lock the gates and close down Dreamland which would be an unmitigated disaster for Thanet residents and waste of £7 – 8 million council tax payers money. I truly hope that Council Leader Chris Well is able to stop this from happening.
My other Dreamland writings -