Friday, 1 July 2016

Margate Dreamland Tax Payers £14million Bill Exposed.

After hiding the truth for ages, Thanet Council (TDC)  has finally been  forced to fess-up  how much cash  taxpayers have had to shell out  for the purchase and restoration of  Margate’s failing Dreamland Amusement Park.

According to TDC draft accounts which were published on line yesterday – here’s the link -

TDC has, up until 31 March 2016,  spent £8.961 million on the acquisition and restoration of Dreamland. But that’s not the total figure. In December 2015 Thanet Council reached an out-of-court settlement for alleged breaches of its leasehold agreement with park operators, Sands Heritage, of £913,000, which was not  included in the  £8.961 million figure. Adding the 2 together brings the total to a staggering £9,874 million.

But it doesn’t end there.  TDC’s draft accounts also confirm  that there “is an on-going legal process  with the former land owners”  which has forced the council to set aside  money to pay further compensation for the compulsory purchase of the Dreamland site.  TDC has refused to tell me how much cash  has been set aside because the matter is  commercially sensitive,  but my sources at the council  tell me that its somewhere in the region of £3million.

Personally I think this is an underestimate. TDCs  disastrous and utterly incompetent supervision of the Dreamland project and the collapse into administration of park operator, Sands Heritage  provide the former park owners with  strong legal arguments  that TDCs  CPO application was flawed and misleading. This could easily increase any final compensation settlement to £4million, bringing  the total cost to   council tax payers for the acquisition and restoration of Dreamland to £14 million. Or put another way  £100 for every  man woman and child living in Thanet.

In addition to the £14million paid by council tax payers, don’t forget the fact that the Heritage Lottery Fund, and the  Government’s Sea Change and Coastal Communities grant funds have also contributed an estimated £8million towards the Dreamland project. This means that the grand total for the purchase and restoration of Dreamland is £22million! And this is only the first phase. The cinema, the ballroom and the café are yet to be restored which will require tens-of-millions more of council taxpayers money and grant funding. It wouldn’t surprise me, by the time everything is finished well over £30 million in public funding had been invested in Margate Dreamland.

But don’t get me wrong I still support Dreamland! I still believe that when completed the project will be a key driving force in  Thanet’s economic regeneration. But having the said that the history of the project to date has been an unmitigated disaster. I and others, especially the brave and tenacious  Louise Oldfield,  have uncovered evidence and written extensively about how Thanet Council totally fucked up the management of the Dreamland project. Many people, including myself,  have also  expressed  concerns about  TDCs appointment of Sands Heritage as the park operator. Our concerns appear to have been justified by its recent collapse into administration owing its creditors £2.9million,  and its mysterious loan of £600,000 from an offshore company, with which some of the Sands Heritage directors have links, and the possibility that the offshore company may get its hands on the Dreamland 100 year lease!

So serious are my concerns that I  believe that there should be an independent public inquiry into the management of the Dreamland Project that those responsible for the fuck ups are named and shamed and that lessons are learned  for the future.
Here are links to some of my previous Dreamland writings.



  1. was the out of court settlement the £1m secret payment?

  2. So if the former owner have a good case against TDC for not delivering their promises in court in delivering a successful Drealand Sands wont have a 100 year lease anymore!
    I have been waiting for those accounts and note that despite "From 30 December 2014 and after seven and a half years with the Council, Chief Executive & S151 Officer Sue McGonigal decided to move on and explore other opportunities", TDC still gave her a £82,000 pay off. why?
    And it looks like Thanets' ports lost £3.3 millions in the year, what about Ramsgate port saviour the car ferry firm? All that dredging to accommodate it and it came once.

  3. What is the Sands payment by TDC for £900k for? Why hasn't Chris Wells revealed this information before now?

    Macgonigal was paid an extra £82k above her contract? Why? She was sacked wasn't she: a month's payoff? We seem to be funding public servants careers rather than public services...

  4. How is it a 100 year lease when in the contract it said 35 years

    The dodgems didbt need restoring just some old 60's cars yet it cost over 100k and just the dodgem track wouldn't ha e cost over 15k
    The fella who done the restoration of the rides must be laughing all the way to the bank

  5. Link to original tender