Monday, 30 May 2016

Dreamland Administration: Labour's Nightmare Labour's Fault

News that Margate Dreamland’s  operator, Sands Heritage,  has gone into administration is unsurprising. This was a project which, from the beginning, had political and managerial incompetence writ large across it. Based on my previous writings about Dreamland over the past 2 years here’s  a summary of some of the key issues.

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 -


  1. Well said Ian although Wells is covering up the Dreamland court case and payout - and has had a year to raise any problems?

  2. Really Anon? Why would Wells want to do that? Wouldn't others in the council offices be more likely to want to?

  3. Where's the other year of posts? And Ian I don't recall you warning of this and I also remember you assisting on the popular campaign to save it

    1. @ 21.50. Ian Driver did raise his concerns on several occasions and got the usual barrage of abuse from the Labour Party. He was also hopeful that it could be managed to work. A combination of TDC and officers throwing public money away in a desperate bid to win in the popularity stakes for being re-elcted has yet again backfired at an enormous cost to the rate-payer and lottery players. If this bid had been presented at the Dragon's Den, the entrepreneurs like Deborah Meaden, Duncan Bannatyne, Theo Paphitis would have told TDC and Sands Heritage to take a hike. Why have millions been wasted on such a dreadful business opportunity that has to be perpetually subsidised by a local authority propping up a private company who wants to make a profit? The real Dreamland is in the heads of the idiots who thought they were being clever. Appalling!

  4. Right from the start it was going wrong. TDC. The Dreamland Trust and Sands all played a significant part in thirds disaster
    There was never a proper vision and business plan. Ones The Dreamland trust got lottery money they went on a reckless strategy of buying any rides that came on the market or given away free. They ended up with an expensive collection of incomplete and broken rides with many to this day laying around in storage. Sands compounded it through lack of experience and seem to think Dreamland was a Thorp Park rather than a small seaside fairground that would need to rely on both local people and casual visitors but the ticket strategy was designed to discourage locals and casual visitors

    Sadly I think it is now to late to save it. The assets have already gone with most of the rides not owned by Dreamland and the property assets are held in another company

    Since the CVA and administration Dreamland lost another £2M that's about £220,000 a month and that's in spite of most of the start up costs dropping out. If as is probably Sands goes into liquidation it is possible that some of the sight could be used for housing with
    the frontage of the site having nice view over the seafront/ The main negative to that is the rest of the area around it is a dump. Whether a smaller and much lower cost fairground can survive I doubt it. But if anyone was to try they could well look at how Southend & Clacton pier have done it

  5. The administartors for Sands Heritage Ltd have called a creditors meeting. It seems clear they have not found a buyer for the business and this meeting will look to winding the company up and disposing of any assets it has. It is a sad end for Dreamland but was totally predicatable. THey seem to think Drealand was a Thorpe Park and priced it as such

    The seaside Leisure market is a very tough market now that the holiday makers are all but gone. THere is not a lot to attract visitors to Margate nd there are better attractions closer to London. Whether a small amusment park can remain on the site who knows

    Perhaps the frontage of market could be turned over to high quality appartments wih perhaps shop units on the ground flow. The flats would hve great sea views. The big problm is they would be surrounded by deralict building and unkempt buildings. THey really need to smarten up what is quite a small area between the station and the Turner Contempary. The Tuirn Contemporay beuilig itself i in my view a bit of an eysore what can be done to make it look more attrractive I do not know

  6. There is an update on the BBC web site. It states that the debt is now over £14M