Page last updated at 16:16 GMT, Monday, 1 December 2008

Hundreds slam Lapland park 'scam'

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

A newly-opened "winter wonderland" Lapland-style theme park has been described as a "joke" and a "scam" by hundreds of angry visitors.

Many people have demanded a refund of the 25 they paid to enter the Lapland New Forest, at Matchams Leisure Park on the Hampshire-Dorset border.

Several visitors have contacted the BBC saying the standard is extremely poor and does not resemble marketing photos.

Organiser Henry Mears said: "We don't believe we ripped anyone off."

He blamed "a few groups of professional troublemakers" for the allegations over the attraction which opened on Friday.

"Like all people they like to get into queues and just generate a bit of aggravation.

The two reindeer were obviously not enjoying their surroundings and the 'log cabins' were a few green painted sheds

April Chantler

"What is not here that we haven't advertised?" he added.

More than 250 people have joined three Facebook groups about the park, with many demanding refunds.

Some said they had contacted the RSPCA about the animals on site.

The park's website, which became unavailable on Monday afternoon, had shown pictures of snowy scenes and icicles, and promised real log cabins, a nativity scene, husky dogs and other animals, as well as a "bustling" Christmas market.

It said: "We can assure you of an absolutely magical scene... just look how real and cold the 'snow' appears to be."

But some visitors said that what they experienced was "disorganised chaos" and "hell".

They have complained that, once inside the park, they had to pay more to use the attractions.

The Christmas market
Many people said they were disappointed by the Chistmas market

Some also said that the animals looked unhappy and the facilities, including a broken ice rink, were poor.

Amanda Goodenough, of Blandford, Dorset, told the BBC she paid 150 for tickets for her family.

The park was "a complete misrepresentation, leaving my children heartbroken," she complained.

"The advertisement lends you to believe that this is a snow-covered Lapland village with Hollywood special effects and a bustling Christmas market with an ice rink.

"The website is totally misleading, including photographs which bear no relation to the reality which awaits you on entry."

'Chained' huskies

April Chantler, of Dibden Purlieu, Hampshire, described the park as "hell".

"The huskies were chained up in a pen howling, yapping and generally looking thin and unhappy.

"The two reindeer were obviously not enjoying their surroundings and the 'log cabins' were a few green painted sheds with more or less nothing in them."

People say the website was misleading

Grace Tyrrell, of Fareham, Hampshire, said there were many health and safety issues and that the toilets were "full to the seat" leaving her six-year-old daughter "disgusted".

"The entire day was a joke, and I know everyone else thought so," she said.

"The nativity scene was a picture on a painted wall which was viewed from a distance and which had everyone we met laughing."

Mr Mears, who organises the park's marketing and advertising, added he was "bemused" by the complaints.

"Sadly, the first two days were very, very wet and cold and not the most pleasant."

He said the ice rink was now open after "it had a problem" which was out of the park's hands.

Mr Mears added he was going to speak to his boss to see "what we are going to do about it", but could not promise anyone a refund.

Dorset County Council's trading standards team said it would start an investigation after receiving more than 50 complaints.

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