Restored Dreamland set to reopen
Crowds are set to flock to the reopening of a seaside amusement park following a 12-year campaign and an £18 million restoration.
Hundreds of campaigners, including some cast members of the BBC hit comedy Only Fools and Horses, backed the revival of the Dreamland Amusement Park in Margate, Kent.
Attractions include 17 restored vintage rides, a roller disco, pleasure gardens, restaurants, arcades and amusements, harking back to a golden age of the British seaside.
But the centrepiece of the park - the Grade II*-listed, timber-framed Scenic Railway - will not be ready in time for the reopening because of continuing restoration to its trains.
Regarded as one of the oldest rollercoasters of its kind left in the world, it was seriously damaged in an arson attack in 2008 after being shut some two years earlier.
During the Scenic Railway's golden era, its wooden trains carried 28 passengers and a driver on a three-minute, one kilometre (1,093 yds) ride, reaching heights of up to 41ft (12.5m)
Thanet District Council leader Chris Wells said it was disappointing for the Scenic Railway not to be ready for Dreamland's reopening, but that delays in such a big project were "unforeseeable".
Today marks the opening of phase one, with phase two set to include the opening of the ballroom, outdoor event space and dance studio later this year.
More than 200 jobs are being created through the first phase of the project, which secured several million pounds from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF).
Dreamland's revival brings another major attraction to Margate to rival the popular £17 million Turner Contemporary art gallery, which opened in 2011.
Nick Laister, chairman of the Dreamland Trust, said: "In a town that has already seen positive change following the very successful opening of Turner Contemporary, Dreamland will be another leap forward.
"It will bring hundreds of thousands of tourists to Margate, will create hundreds of jobs and opportunities for local companies.
"Margate is a resort that is finding its way back into the hearts of people up and down the country. It is an exciting place to be."
Eddie Kemsley, CEO of Dreamland, said: "This launch represents a considerable achievement in bringing Dreamland to life once again and everyone in Margate and involved in the project should be very proud."
Designer Wayne Hemingway was tasked with delivering the Dreamland project after the site was compulsory purchased by Thanet District Council.
The park featured in the Only Fools and Horses' 1989 Christmas special when Del Boy and Rodney took their friends on a day out to Dreamland.
John Challis, who played dodgy car dealer Boycie in the long-running television comedy series, was among those who got behind Dreamland's campaign.
Local firm Sands Heritage Ltd has been selected to operate Dreamland.