Page last updated at 13:44 GMT, Tuesday, 2 December 2008

Lapland 'scam' costs woman 3,000

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

A woman fears she has wasted 3,000 after buying more than 100 tickets to a Lapland-style theme park described as a "scam" by scores of angry visitors.

Sheilagh-Anne Davidson paid 25 each for 132 tickets to Lapland New Forest this weekend, on behalf of a social club in Berkshire.

Hundreds of visitors have told the BBC the site on the Hampshire-Dorset border does not resemble marketing pictures.

More than 2,000 people have complained to Consumer Direct.

Many people want refunds and are calling for the closure of the attraction which opened on Friday.

Ms Davidson said she had thought the park would make a great location for a day out for members of a sports and social club members in Bracknell.

"I saw the website and it was fantastic," she said.

Visitors speak outside the theme park

"This has to be false advertising. We don't even know what our rights are as we haven't been yet."

The theme park's website, which became unavailable on Monday afternoon, 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.

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

Tickets cost 30 for individuals, 25 for each person for families of four or more and 10 for children under two years old.

Organiser Henry Mears told the BBC: "We don't believe we ripped anyone off. What is not here that we haven't advertised?"

One woman who paid 150 for her family's tickets told the BBC the website was "totally misleading" leaving her children "heartbroken".

Others described it as a "scam", a "joke", "disorganised chaos" and "hell".

Many said the animals looked unhappy, complaining that the huskies looked thin and were chained up in a pen.

The day was supposed to be a Christmas treat for the grandchildren but turned out to be more like a punishment
Robert Caddy

They said the other facilities, including a broken ice rink, were poor.

The Christmas market was a tent with a few stalls in it, the "tunnel of light" was some fairy lights hanging from some trees and the "log cabins" were green sheds, they complained.

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

More than 1,000 people have joined one of at least three Facebook groups, which have been set up in protest at Lapland New Forest.

'Professional troublemakers'

Robert Caddy, of Andover, Hampshire, visited the park on Sunday.

"The day was supposed to be a Christmas treat for the grandchildren but turned out to be more like a punishment.

People say the website was misleading

"They should be charged with misrepresentation under the Consumer Protection Act."

Trading standards officers said they had visited the site after receiving 50 complaints on Monday and were aware of a "large number of others".

But they said they did not have powers to shut the site down.

Consumer Direct, a government-funded advice service, said unsatisfied customers should consider taking the matter to county court if writing a letter was unsuccessful.

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

He said the ice rink had since reopened.

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

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

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