Margate: Thanet Wins Dreamland Appeal

Plans to turn the derelict Dreamland site in Margate into the world's first heritage theme park have won the go-ahead from the Court of Appeal.

The former owner of the land failed in a last-ditch legal bid to stop the scheme.

They challenged the legality of a compulsory purchase order (CPO) issued by Thanet District Council which was confirmed by Communities Secretary Eric Pickles in August last year.

The council and the Dreamland Trust want to create a heritage park with historical rides, classic sideshows, vintage cafes, restaurants and gardens.

The former landowner, DreamlandLive, asked three appeal judges to block the CPO, which enabled the council to take control of the site.

Its alternative proposals involve an amusement park on part of the land and the building of up to 500 homes, arguing that is the best financially-viable option for the site.

But Lord Justice Goldring, Lord Justice Elias and Sir David Keene ruled the CPO was lawful.

Lord Justice Elias said it was "inevitable'' the council scheme would have been approved.

He said: "It is universally recognised that Margate is in urgent need of regeneration... Sadly, like many other seaside towns, Margate has lost much of its former glory and is now one of the most deprived areas in south east England.

"A regeneration of the amusement park on the Dreamland site is one of two key features in that regeneration project, the other being the now completed Turner art gallery.''

The need for regeneration for the economic and social benefit of Margate was ``overwhelming''. Two schemes were in play, and only Thanet Council's was satisfactory in a planning inspector's view, declared the judge.

Richard Glover QC, for DreamlandLive, had argued at a recent hearing that the Communities Secretary's conclusion that the heritage amusement park would be ''commercially viable'' was legally flawed and based on factual errors and misleading advice.

Control of the Dreamland site formally passed to Thanet Council after Judge Sycamore, sitting at London's High Court in May, upheld Mr Pickles's decision to confirm the CPO.

Appealing against Judge Sycamore's ruling, Mr Glover said the CPO was a ''draconian order with seriously harmful effects''.

He accused the single judge of failing to grapple with any of the issues raised by the Communities Secretary's ``flawed'' approach to the question of commercial viability and his ruling was ``not safe''.

Mr Glover also contended that errors were made by the public inquiry inspector who recommended to Mr Pickles that the CPO be confirmed.

Rejecting all the grounds of challenge, Lord Justice Elias described how the Dreamland site was first developed as an amusement park in 1919 and in its heyday was an important attraction in Margate, then a popular and successful seaside town.

The site included a scenic railway - "the oldest timber rollercoaster in the UK'' -and an art deco cinema. Both are now Grade II* listed buildings.

The judge said the park declined in popularity and was closed in 2002 - and Margate lost much of its former glory.

The council has £10 million of funding in place for phase one of the redevelopment, which includes restoration of the scenic railway.