The Save Dreamland Campaign has today launched its vision for a new Dreamland, called 'I Dream of Dreamland'. The new I Dream Concept Plan has been produced by leading international theme park designer Jean-Marc Toussaint and has been backed by one of the prominent operators hoping to acquire Dreamland.
Campaign Leader, Nick Laister, said: "We have known for some time that there is serious interest from established theme park operators in acquiring Dreamland and investing in the park. The only thing that has stopped this happening is Thanet District Council's last-minute change to its Local Plan, which had protected the Dreamland amusement park. Without that policy in place, the value of the site to property developers has significantly increased, making it very difficult for amusement park operators to acquire the site. Margate's very future as a seaside resort is now at stake. The Save Dreamland Campaign is constantly looking for new ways to show decision-makers what Dreamland could be like in the hands of a committed operator – this Concept Plan should raise a few eyebrows."
The Vision for Dreamland is backed by Philip Miller, Managing Director of Southend's popular Adventure Island theme park, which attracts 1.5 million visitors a year. Miller, has been trying to acquire Dreamland for almost two years, has already publicly pledged £10m on new rides and attractions.
The Concept Plan has been designed by Paris-based theme park designer, Jean-Marc Toussaint, who has acted for many of the world's leading theme park operators, including Parc Asterix, owned by Grévin & Cie.
Nick Laister says: "When Jean-Marc offered to create a Concept Plan for Dreamland - to show what the park could be like should it be acquired by one of the interested theme park operators - we jumped at the chance. Jean-Marc delivered his Concept Plan to the Save Dreamland Campaign on 20 February 2005. We think his plan for Dreamland is fantastic, and we quickly adopted it as our vision. This Concept Plan is what Dreamland might look like if our Campaign is successful. Just think what a boost this would be for Margate!"
Jean-Marc Toussaint, like so many other people, could see beyond the park's current 'artificial' run-down appearance: "I really fell in love with the park when I first visited it five years ago. Despite its worn-out carnival look, I immediately saw the potential in its excellent location by the sea front."
The park's heritage is also a major consideration, so Jean-Marc's Concept Plan retains the Scenic Railway (which all operators have confirmed they will do) but it would also see the return of the Water Chute and River Caves, albeit modern versions of these much-loved Dreamland rides. Jean-Marc says: "The idea is to leave the current 'concrete slab' way behind us and go back to the pre-Godden era, with grass, bushes, floral arrangements trees and several bodies of water (fountains, lakes, rivers...), all connected together by a theme that's understandable by everybody."
The launch of the Campaign's vision for Dreamland comes just after the announcement that the park will open for the 2005 season, operated by leading showman Harry Ayers. But the park's future is still far from secure, having been sold in March 2005 to a Newbury-based property developer, which has already publicly proposed a development of shops and houses. Nick Laister believes that the park's future is now almost entirely within the hands of Thanet District Council:
"The site cannot be redeveloped without planning permission from Thanet District Council. The people of Margate, through the recent public consultations, have overwhelmingly shown that they want to retain the site in tourism use, ideally as an amusement park. We also have several established operators who have publicly stated that they would be prepared to acquire the site and invest millions of pounds in new rides and attractions. Residential and retail development will be completely unacceptable on the site. It is a valuable tourist asset and the people of Margate will not see it disappear without a fight. Thanet District Council will be playing a very dangerous game if it does not make this clear to the new owners.
"In my opinion, Thanet District Council has so far failed to listen to the views of its residents and provide firm leadership on this matter, so I hope that the Inspector's Report into the Local Plan Inquiry will provide clear guidance."
The Save Dreamland Campaign will be formally issuing the new Concept Plan to Thanet District Council as a submission to the current Local Development Framework consultation.
"The Save Dreamland Campaign calls on Thanet District Council to do what other seaside resorts have done and protect the town's most important tourist attraction in the Local Plan. Margate's residents and businesses are fed up of the uncertainty that this council has created for the resort. We need the Council to publicly back Margate as a seaside resort, and we need this backing quickly, so that confidence can return to the town."
To find out more about the Save Dreamland Campaign visit the campaign's website at www.savedreamland.co.uk.