New funfair ride divides Swanage community

Described as a ‘monstrosity’ by some but a ‘wonderful addition to the town’ by others, the future of a newly erected pirate-themed funfair ride in Swanage, Dorset, has yet to be decided.

Santa Fe, the fun park in a prime location on the seafront, has replaced a bouncy castle attraction with a pirate ship swing, which towers above the entertainment venue.

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Pirate ship ride on seafront

The pirate ship fairground ride has been grounded for now

Significant investment

It’s understood that the ride represents a significant investment for the owners of the funfair and many have been excited by the prospect of the new addition to the popular attraction.

However, others have complained that it is too dominant and a blot on the landscape, obstructing views of the sea and Ballard Down. There is also concern that it will be too noisy.

Pirate ship ride on seafront

Depending on your perspective the ride can look huge like an oil well…

Pirate ship ride on seafront

…or in keeping with the other fun fair attractions

Swanage conservation zone

Swanage Town Council owns the funfair site and leases the land to the owners of Santa Fe. As leaseholders, the funfair has to adhere to terms within the contract. It is not known whether those terms have been broken.

The funfair sits within the Swanage conservation area and while the fairground ride might be considered as a temporary structure and therefore not require planning permission, it is believed that permission from Dorset Council should be sought for this type of development within a conservation zone.

Planning permission may be applied for retrospectively.

Pirate ship ride on seafront

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and it’s certainly proved as controversial as a piece of modern art

“Working closely together”

In a statement, Swanage Town Council said:

“Swanage Town Council is the landlord of the Santa Fe fun park, which is occupied under a long lease. A new ride has recently been introduced into the park.

“One key question is whether or not the ride requires planning permission. This matter will be determined by Dorset Council as the local planning authority.

“The town council and the park operator are working closely together. The town council has not made any decision in this matter.

“Swanage Town Council is fully committed to supporting the local economy, including the seafront businesses that service significant numbers of visitors to the town.”

Pirate ship ride on seafront

Over the years the town council has had to address complaints about the ‘noise nuisance’ caused by bandstand concerts, proving that it’s impossible to please everyone!

Divided community

Changes to the seafront have divided the community on many occasions. As detailed in Jason Tomes book Swanage An Illustrated History, in 1934, for the first time, multi-coloured lights were strung along the seafront.

However they only lasted for one year with the Chamber of Trade calling them ‘those wretched fairy lights’ and claiming they offended ‘the more discerning type of resident and holiday maker on whom the town still so largely depends’.

In 1967, the Victorian Mowlem Institute was replaced with the Brutalist architecture of The Mowlem building, which has ever since been both loved and despised for the way it boldly juts out along the coastline.

Pirate ship ride on seafront

Move over Mowlem, the pirate ship has now become the most ‘Marmite’ structure in Swanage… well for now anyway

Swanage marina decided by the House of Lords

Perhaps the most divisive issue of recent times was the proposal by a private developer in 1986 to build a yacht marina in Swanage Bay.

Many fishermen at the time felt their boats would be displaced from the sheltered area of the bay, while others feared that the marina breakwater could reduce the amount of sand on the beach. The developers argued it would bring jobs and money into the local economy.

In a poll, 30 percent voted yes to the proposal, while 67 percent voted no. In the end the matter was decided by the House of Lords which rejected the Swanage yacht haven idea.

Six months later in June 1988, as reported in the Purbeck Independent newspaper, the rector of Swanage, David Callard said:

“Our town has never needed a united team at the helm so much. For Swanage is at a crossroads. …Are we to continue as a holiday resort or not?

“Since 1980, 50 percent of our hotel beds have been lost. We are at a crisis over the hotel trade. And are we to encourage young families to live here, or are we to become a Costa Geriatrica?”

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