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.