Dreamland 10th August 2016
The Dreamland Entertainment Complex has just enjoyed a spectacularly successful weekend of the kind that is going to be needed if not only the Amusement Park but Margate is to thrive and prosper as a seaside resort offering more than just a brief summer season.
Weekends like this do not just happen. Fine weather is, of course, a blessing but events take a great deal of skilful planning and a look at the Dreamland website reveals a programme of all-weather attractions stretching into the New Year and beyond that some, at least, are prepared to invest their money and their faith in. In tandem with the Turner Contemporary`s hugely imaginative and crowd-pulling “Seeing Round Corners” exhibition, to be followed by an autumn display of Turner`s own works. Dreamland is now making, notwithstanding a rocky start, a major contribution to the economy of Margate and of the Isle of Thanet.
A pity, therefore, that Thanet District`s senior Councillors should have sought to absolve themselves of blame for the shortcomings that bedevilled Dreamland`s 2015 season and to suggest that somehow the operators of the Amusement Park, Sands Leisure, were “guilty” of daring to try to open on time and to honour the undertakings to those to whom they were contractually liable and those to whom they had sold tickets. If Thanet`s Council had shown the same degree of commitment to the project then, as the Administrator has very clearly indicated in a report that, contrary to the impression that TDC has tried to give, has not “been withdrawn”, then much grief might have been avoided.
As TDC has chosen to use its PR Department to cast a slur on Dreamland`s operators, let me pose some questions;
Was it TDC or the operators who were responsible for the failure to deliver the restored Scenic Railway, promised for June 2015 , until after the end of the summer season in October?
Was it TDC or the operators who failed to deliver contracted heritage rides in time for the opening of the park, leaving the operators having to use scarce resources to fund hired-in attractions?
Was it TDC and its contractors or the operators who failed, in 2015 and in 2016, to deliver the all-weather indoor areas in time to book attractions to see the enterprise through the winter?
Given that TDC seek to hold the operators responsible for `failure`, did TDC or did it not pay a sum in compensation for breach of contract, and if so how much, and was that money then paid in full to creditors?
Did TDC authorise the supply of a cheap pulley-rope for the Scenic Railway, resulting in the need to take the Amusement Park`s major attraction out of service while the operators were left to source a replacement during the peak season?
Is the landlord (TDC) responsible for the maintenance of the roof and guttering that failed leading to the flooding and refurbishment, at present at the operators` expense, of the highly popular and all-weather Octopus`s Garden?
If the Leader of the Council can take time out from seeking to avoid his electoral undertaking to see Manston re-opened as an airport then perhaps he would care to use this newspaper to respond in detail?
I do not often agree with Ian Driver but I believe that in this instance he is right to call for a full and independent public inquiry to examine the background to the difficulties that have been faced in the past by Dreamland and to hold those responsible , whether officers or Councillors, to public account. In the meantime let us hope that the Administrator and operators may now be allowed, with the support of a local authority that honours its future and current obligations, to make the success of a 12-month of the year performance, hospitality and amusement facility that is vital to the regeneration of Margate. I know that there are Council Officers ready, willing and able to undertake this task and I hope that their efforts will not be frustrated by others with whom we have to try to co-exist until they can be replaced at the next electoral opportunity.