Margate's Dreamland means many different things to different people.
For some the site generates memories of a time before package holiday travel when crowds still thronged the seafront and packed the beaches. A time when cars and money were scarce, when the steam train to the seaside was an excitement in itself and when a fortnight in a boarding house offering, shall we say, the most basic of facilities was the closest that many would ever get to heaven.
A different generation remembers only Bemboms and white knuckle rides and the mixed screams of joy and terror as visitors defied gravity in the search for excitement. In those days the Park offered the country's largest single combined entry and rail travel ticket sales of any attraction in the land.
On this site liaisons and assignations have been kept and marriages made and very probably also broken over more years that even the Town's oldest resident is likely to be able to remember.
It's easy to wallow in nostalgia. I remember myself, during the celebrations of 200 years of Margate as a seaside resort, a young Member of Parliament hanging upside down on the Mary Rose in the company of Miss Margate and her Princess, holding on for dear life while an intrepid photographer from the local press, suspended only by the safety rail and hands free, took a series of such brilliant photographs that he was projected upwards to a national tabloid.
Those were the days!
"The punch and Judy Man is gone forever" ran the refrain of a sixties pop song. I do not believe that that is either literally or metaphorically true. Even in this politically correct age the Professor and his puppets are alive and well and there will always be a place for them.
But the game moves on, as it always has. Those who mourn the passing of the amusement park need to remember that it has, in fact, always been a mixture of rides and retail and other businesses and so it is likely to be again. That is why I welcome the exhibition of proposals that has now opened in the Dreamland Car Park and I hope that all those with a real interest in the future of our town and of our Island will take a look at it and make their views known.
Having seen the exhibition myself I believe that the young architect that has generated the two plans is offering some very imaginative schemes.
We owe, most certainly, a debt of gratitude to those of the Save dreamland campaign who have kept the flame of the amusement park alive. Without their enthusiasm it is unlikely that the present concept of a Heritage Park would have been included in one of the plans. Such a Park, , incorporating a refurbished Scenic Railway spanning a lake fed naturally by the Tivoli Brook, with the best of our remaining carousels, dodgems and other pieces of fairground history (and, I trust, a Punch and Judy man!) is immensely exciting. This is a piece of our heritage that needs to be preserved. I know of nothing like it anywhere in the world and, well promoted, there is every reason why such a working museum could become an international attraction.
There will be those who will frown upon the proposed supporting mix of residential accommodation and retail outlets required, inevitably, to fund and underpin a Heritage site but we must not allow the idealistic to become the enemy of the good and the concept of a rooftop veranda looking out across the rooftops of the existing Marine Parade to the sea and the re-routing of traffic away from a pedestrians seafront has to be worth very serious consideration.
We look backwards or we look forward. I believe that Margate's heyday is in front of us not behind us and that given courage and a very real partnership between the public and private sectors the renewal of Margate's extended waterfront, while it may take some time to achieve and to complete, in now seriously on the cards.
In spite of its present dereliction the Dreamland complex represents the most important development site in East Kent and we owe it to generations to come down the years to ensure that we get its future right.