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Last Updated: Thursday, 31 March, 2005, 10:47 GMT 11:47 UK
Work to start on 'Dickensworld'
Charles Dickens
Dickens lived in the Medway area and based some of his books there
Work on a 60m entertainment complex based on the life of Charles Dickens is set to start by the beginning of June.

Dickensworld in Chatham will feature 10 rides described as "a journey through history with a few thrills and spills" and should be opened by spring 2007.

The four acre site will also feature a cinema, restaurants and bars.

The author was brought up in Chatham, with some of his books set in nearby Rochester where an annual Dickens Festival has been held for 26 years.

A deal confirming the plans was struck over the Easter weekend between Dickensworld Limited and the South East England Development Agency (SEEDA), which owns the Chatham Maritime site where it will be built.

'Not rollercoasters'

Dickensworld Ltd's chief executive Kevin Christie said on Thursday that work was expected to start in June, with the multi-screen cinema, restaurants and bars expected to open in October 2006.

He said Dickensworld itself is expected to open by April 2007.

Mr Christie said: "It will have rides and entertainment attractions, not rollercoasters, more a journey through that period of history with a few thrills and spills.

Anna Friel in the BBC adaptation of Dickens' Our Mutual Friend
Adaptations of Dickens' novels are still popular fare on UK television

"There's going to be 10 different features which we call rides within the complex, the major part of it will be recreating Victorian England as seen through the books of Charles Dickens."

The plans have been criticised by some locals who feel the complex will take visitors away from existing Dickens attractions.

Last month Cyril Baldwin, who since the 1970s has played Pickwick in Rochester's Dickens Festival, told the BBC: "We spent 26 years building up the Dickens connection in Rochester and this is set to undermine it."

But Mr Christie said on Thursday: "Rochester has the real thing but it doesn't have the entertainment element that goes with it.

"We will bring additional people into the area which will be for the benefit of Rochester."

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