Published: 00:01, 16 November 2009
An artist's impression of the new-look Dreamland
by Martin Jefferies
Margate looks all set for a blast from the past after campaigners secured £3.7million to turn their exciting heritage amusement park plans into a reality.
The Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) awarded the cash to The Dreamland Trust to transform the desolate seaside attraction into a world first, must-visit theme park.
The Grade II-listed Scenic Railway rollercoaster, the oldest in the UK but severely damaged in a devastating fire last year, will be restored to its former splendour as the centerpiece of the project.
A collection of historic rides rescued from parks from around the country will be repaired and returned to action, while the Grade II-listed Dreamland cinema structure will also receive a facelift.
It is hoped the site will ultimately become a centre for the celebration of British popular culture, focusing especially on the music and fashion of young people in the post-World War II period.
Speaking on Monday, Margaret Hodge, Minister for Culture and Tourism, said: "The idea of taking some of our very best heritage of past amusement parks and turning it into something excellent to encourage tourism today is really great."
Audio: Margaret Hodge, Minister for Culture and Tourism, talks about the Dreamland plans
Nick Laister, chairman of The Dreamland Trust, said: "This proposal has the ability to create an outstanding attraction in Margate, capitalising on the resort's unique heritage in a way that will make a huge contribution to the regeneration of the town."
The millions of pounds awarded by the DCMS will be administered through the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment (CABE) Sea Change programme, which is designed to reinvigorate seaside towns through investment in culture and heritage.
Richard Simmons, chief executive of CABE, said: "Projects like Dreamland demonstrate how culture can be a catalyst to recapture the flair that these places enjoyed in their heyday. It's ambitious plans like this, creating new national attractions, that can rekindle the English love affair with our seaside."
The funding boost was welcomed by the many local organisations which supported The Dreamland Trust's Sea Change application.
Richard Samuel, chief executive of Thanet District Council (TDC), said the announcement was "everything we'd hoped for", while Peter Beck, construction manager at Margate Town Centre Regeneration Company, said it was a "considerable achievement".
The Dreamland Trust said the park would create considerable employment opportunities and attract up to 700,000 people each year.
Local people and visitors will be able to enter the park and landscaped gardens free of charge, with wristbands being sold for those who want to enjoy the rides.
Plans for a new-look Dreamland were first unveiled at a public meeting in Margate in mid-March, attended by more than 400 people.
In July, campaigners were told they had been given £384,500 by the Heritage Lottery Fund to kick-start the ground-breaking project, with TDC pledging to pay an extra 10 per cent of that figure.
A full application for £2.65million of Lottery support is expected early next year. The total cost of the project is estimated at £12million.
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