In a ruling which fosters the hope that the seaside resort of Margate may rediscover the popularity it enjoyed in its heyday, the Court of Appeal has approved compulsory purchase orders that will make way for development of a £10 million heritage theme park in the town.
Thanet District Council’s compulsory acquisition of Margate’s iconic ‘Dreamland’ amusement park was hotly resisted by the site’s owners who attacked the local authority’s plans as financially unviable and put forward their own proposals for an amusement park and 500 new homes.
It was submitted that the compulsory purchase orders were a draconian interference with private property rights and would have ‘seriously harmful effects’. However, the orders were upheld by a government planning inspector following a public inquiry and his decision was subsequently approved by the High Court.
In dismissing the owners’ appeal, the Court emphasised the ‘overwhelming’ need to regenerate a town which once drew hundreds of thousands of day-trippers but which had fallen on intensely hard times. The Court noted the council’s strong commitment to its proposals, the inspector’s view that its business plan was both prudent and cautious and the willingness of third parties to commit substantial sums of money to the project. In those circumstances, the inspector’s view that the council’s plans were operationally viable was clearly sustainable.
The council’s plans encompassed an ambitious £10,360,000 regeneration of the site which would be accomplished in six phases, including a £2.2 million restoration of a scenic railway and the installation of rides costing £1.7 million. The government had extended a £3.7 million grant for the project and it was hoped that the heritage park would create new employment opportunities and attract 350,000 visitors-a-year to the town.