Dreamland Appeal At High Court

A local council's plans to help rejuvenate a seaside town with a multimillion-pound heritage amusement park came under attack at the High Court today.

Thanet District Council wants to restore a famous rollercoaster - said to be the oldest in the country - and turn the disused Dreamland site at Margate in Kent into a top attraction once more with historical rides and sideshows.

The multiple owners of the £10 million site oppose the scheme and are appealing against a Government decision to confirm a compulsory purchase order (CPO) to secure the land needed for the project.

They claim the heritage scheme is unaffordable and is proposing homes and a fun park instead.

The Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government approved the acquisition of the land for the heritage scheme in May 2011 after a public inquiry.

Richard Glover QC, appearing for Dreamland Leisure Ltd and eight other parties with an interest in the land, argued that the minister's decision was flawed and the CPO must be quashed.

The QC said the minister had reached the conclusion that the heritage park was "operationally viable on a false basis" and had failed properly to weigh all the evidence.

He told Judge Sycamore, sitting at London's High Court, that if the CPO threat was lifted, the claimants intended to bring forward development proposals that would be "of significantly greater benefit to Margate than the CPO scheme''.

Dreamland amusement park closed to the public in 2003.

One of its famous features, the grade II-listed Scenic Railway enjoyed by generations of holidaymakers, is still there but was damaged in an arson attack in 2008.

The site is also home to a grade II listed cinema and grade II listed menagerie cages of historical importance.

DreamlandLive proposed building 400 homes, as well as a fun park with the rollercoaster.

Margate has in recent years become seen as a run-down, ailing resort and the 2003 closure of the old Dreamland park central to that decline.

The saying "when Dreamland died Margate died'' is familiar locally, and all sides agree that something must be done to restore the site.

Margate artist Tracey Emin has described moves to reopen Dreamland as a major seaside attraction as "the best news Margate could have, and about time''.

Last year the Rough Guide named Margate as one of the top 10 places in the world to visit, with editor Tim Chester praising the new Turner Contemporary gallery, as well as other indie art spaces, vintage shops and "cute cafes'' in the old town.