Page last updated at 21:15 GMT, Wednesday, 3 December 2008

Lapland park guard quits in shame

Visitors said the park was nothing like the marketing on its website

A security guard at a Lapland-style theme park criticised by visitors as "hell" and a "scam" said he resigned because he was "ashamed to work there".

Adrian Wood worked in the security hut at Lapland New Forest which opened on Friday on the Hampshire-Dorset border.

He said he resigned at seeing a family take their mother out of a hospice for what could be her last Christmas.

A friend of Victor Mears, director of the attraction, said he was "genuinely concerned and upset" about events.

Mr Wood also said he and other staff had been attacked by irate visitors.

More than 2,000 people who paid 25-30 for tickets to the park near Ringwood have officially complained.

Hundreds of people want refunds and are calling for the closure of the attraction, complaining it does not resemble marketing images on its website.

Santa got attacked, one of the elves got smacked in the face and pushed into a pram
Adrian Wood
The website became unavailable on Monday afternoon, but has since been republished with different pictures.

Trading standards officers said they had visited the park but do not have the power to shut it down.

"I quit late Sunday afternoon due to all the events that have been going on, the complaints and the violence towards myself and to other members of staff," Mr Wood told BBC News.

"But what put the final icing on the cake for me to walk out, was a family had taken their mother out of a hospice for cancer patients, who wasn't expected to see this Christmas.

"So they decided to bring her to Lapland to see the Christmas show.

"On getting there they found it difficult to get access with the wheelchair with the mother.

The BBC searches for Lapland park owners

"They were in a queue for nearly an hour-and-a-half in the pouring rain waiting to see Santa.

"If they'd stayed another two to three hours they would have seen him, but unfortunately the queues were that long it was ridiculous."

He said he felt "very, very sorry" for people who had visited the park.

"They have been ripped off," he said.

In the three days that he worked there he said he was "inundated with complaints".

'Punched in face'

"Santa got attacked, one of the elves got smacked in the face and pushed into a pram.

"I was punched in the forehead in the ticket office by an irate customer.

"I was ashamed to work there, really, really ashamed."

The theme park's website had shown pictures of snowy "winter wonderland" scenes and icicles.

It also promised real log cabins, a nativity scene, husky dogs and other animals, as well as a "bustling" Christmas market.

The Christmas market
Many people said they were disappointed by the Chistmas market
Hundreds of people have complained to the BBC about the park since the weekend, saying the animals looked unhappy and huskies looked thin and were chained up in a pen.

Other facilities, including a broken ice rink, were poor, they said, describing the site as a "scam", a "joke", "disorganised chaos" and "hell".

Tickets cost 30 for individuals, 25 for each person for families of four or more, and 10 for children under two years old. Many said they had spent 150 for a family to visit.

Some complained they then had to pay more to use some of the facilities once inside the park.

Meanwhile, East Dorset District Council has stopped the sale of alcohol on site because an application for a licence had been granted but was not yet in force.

The RSPCA said it was investigating after receiving a number of complaints.

Henry Mears, who organises the park's marketing and advertising, told the BBC on Monday: "We don't believe we ripped anyone off. What is not here that we haven't advertised?"

People say the original website was misleading

He blamed "a few groups of professional troublemakers" for the allegations over the attraction.

Mr Mears has not been available for comment since Monday morning.

However, a friend of Victor Mears, the registered director of Lapland New Forest, said things started to go wrong when the director was hospitalised in the run-up to the opening of the event.

David Bishop told the BBC: "They're going to lose a hell of a lot of money and possibly one of them's going to lose a house over this.

"They haven't tried to cheat, they haven't run, they haven't taken no money out of the bank.

"He was in floods of tears the other day when I was talking to him because he felt that he had done something wrong to kids."

Unsatisfied customers have been advised by Consumer Direct to consider taking the matter to county court if writing a letter is unsuccessful.

The government-funded advice service has received more than 2,000 complaints about the theme park.

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