Swanage fun park ride removed after controversy

A funfair ride that towered over Swanage seafront in Dorset, has been dismantled and sold by its owner, following the realisation that it required planning permission.

The pirate ship swing was erected at the Santa Fe fun park at the end of June 2024 and immediately attracted comment, with some calling it a monstrosity, while others were excited by the chance to experience the new ride.

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Pirate ship ride on seafront

The pirate ship ride drew both positive and negative comments but ultimately didn’t have planning permission

Swanage conservation area

Swanage Town Council is the freehold owner of the funfair site and leases the land to Santa Fe, however the town council only learnt of the new ride when it arrived at the funfair.

The Santa Fe owner thought the new ride would not require planning permission as the site has permitted development rights that relate specifically to amusement parks.

However it is also within the Swanage conservation area, and it was pointed out to Santa Fe that Dorset Council as the planning authority would have to approve the new development.

Pirate ship ride on seafront

Before: A monstrosity or a great addition to the town? Opinion was divided

Santa Fe pirate ship ride being dismantled

After: The owner chose to cut his losses and sell it to a Weymouth fun park

“Planning permission is required”

A Dorset Council spokesperson said:

“Following complaints, Dorset Council planning enforcement officers have visited the site and have been in touch with both the business owner and Swanage Town Council.

“We have advised the owner that planning permission is required if they wish to retain the ride. They have been given until Monday 2nd September to either submit an application, or remove the ride.”

Santa Fe pirate ship ride being dismantled

There’s now an empty space ready for a new ride

Santa Fe owner has acted swiftly

However, rather than apply for retrospective planning permission and subject the business to uncertainty, the owner of Santa Fe has acted swiftly ahead of the school summer holidays.

The pirate ship was removed on Thursday 4th July 2024 and it’s understood that it’s been sold to a funfair in Weymouth, further along the Dorset Coast.

In a statement, Swanage Town Council said:

“Swanage Town Council can confirm that the Santa Fe fun park operator is removing the pirate ship ride that was installed last week.

“The park operator has made this decision following representations from Dorset Council’s planning department. Last week, Dorset Council’s planning team received a number of complaints from residents of different parts of the town, principally objecting to the visual impact of the ride.

“The park operator had understood that the ride would not require planning permission as the property has the benefit of permitted development rights that relate specifically to amusement parks.

“However, following a site visit, the planning department informed the park operator that a planning application was likely to be required.

“One reason for this is because the Santa Fe park is within the boundaries of the Swanage Conservation Area, a legal designation which provides greater restrictions regarding development within the town centre.

“Having reflected on the options available, the park operator has decided to remove the ride, primarily to provide certainty for the business over the critical summer season. An alternative ride will be installed prior to the school holidays.

“There has been a great deal of speculation locally about the role of the town council in this matter. The town council is the landlord of the park, which is occupied under a long lease.

“At no point has the town council been asked to provide approval for the ride under the terms of the lease and the decision by the park operator to remove the ride means that the council now has no requirement to do so.

“The council has been in close contact with the park operator throughout this period and all parties will continue to work together to ensure that the park remains a popular and vibrant seafront attraction for visitors and residents alike.”

Santa Fe pirate ship ride being dismantled

Ready to get shipped off to Weymouth

Santa Fe pirate ship ride being dismantled

Packed up and nearly ready to go

“It’s a shame”

Despite protests about the size of the pirate ship swing, there were plenty who backed the Santa Fe owner’s decision to update the park with a new exciting ride, replacing the old Toy Story bouncy inflatable.

Feelings were so strong that a petition was launched calling for the ride to be allowed to remain. Swanage resident and organiser of the petition Stephen Joines said:

“It’s a shame that the pirate ship has already gone – there was definitely lots of support from across the town who were pleased that the owner was investing in Santa Fe.

“Before I moved to Swanage I used to come on holiday here as a child and have very fond memories of the funfair.

“We are a tourist town and this type of development would have been good for the tourist industry – a fantastic addition to the town. We don’t want too much development but we do have to allow businesses to increase their revenue.

“While some thought it was too tall, the ride would have been spotted from a distance and would have attracted more people to the funfair.

“I just hope some good can come from this and the owner continues to improve Sante Fe knowing that there is plenty of community support in the town for new investment and some more exciting rides!”

The Santa Fe fun park replaced the bowling green on the Swanage Recreation Ground in 1978. Original attractions included a minature train ride, trampolines, a model racing car circuit and a nine hole putting course.

It’s expected that a new ride will replace the pirate ship in time for the summer school holidays.

While it’s not been confirmed what type of ride it will be, it’s certainly been a bit of a rollercoaster over the last few days for many!

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