Kent

Margate's Dreamland £3m debt payment deal agreed

Dreamland's Scenic Railway Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Dreamland's Scenic Railway did not reopen until October

Creditors have given the operator of Margate's Dreamland theme park five years to repay nearly £3m of debts.

Sands Heritage announced earlier this month it was seeking a company voluntary arrangement (CVA) to stop it going into administration.

The seaside attraction reopened in June but its Scenic Railway, thought to be Britain's oldest rollercoaster, did not open until 15 October.

Creditors voted to accept the arrangement in Canterbury on Wednesday.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Dreamland has been transformed in time for Christmas

The deal will allow the theme park, which features vintage rides, to remain open while Sands Heritage pays back a proportion of the money it owes over the next five years.

Following the decision, the operator said it was delighted to announce it was "business as usual for Dreamland Margate".

"A 98% majority voted in favour of the proposed CVA. The CVA allows Sands Heritage Limited to pay back its debt in full, over the next five years.

"We would like to thank everyone for their faithful support in Dreamland's first year and look forward to their continued custom and a successful 2016," it said in a statement.

Thanet District Council, which owns the entire site, has already paid an additional £1m of taxpayers' money to the park.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The operator said it was "business as usual for Dreamland Margate"

Council leader Chris Wells said it had "done everything possible" to support the regeneration of Dreamland and wanted to see it succeed.

"It is disappointing that operators Sands Heritage Limited are in financial difficulties.

"We hope today's decision will help to resolve this and believe this is in the best interests of local contractors who are owed money by SHL."

However, the MP for North Thanet said he believed the council was partly to blame for the park's current financial situation.

Sir Roger Gale said: "Thanet District Council has let down the operators by not providing the Scenic Railway on time, by not providing the rides that were promised, so they had to be hired in, by adding costs - which is why I believe that Sands Heritage found themselves in the unfortunate position they were in."

In response the council said it "took a bold step to compulsory purchase the site", and it was the operators decision to open on 19 June "against the council's advice".

Dreamland first opened in 1920 and was a popular attraction for decades before closing 10 years ago. It underwent an £18m restoration before reopening in the summer.

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