Cash row sees lights go out on Dark Ages theme park

Plans for a mythical Dark Age-style theme park are in doubt because of a row over money.

The tourist attraction, Orcestrator, had been expected to pull in thousands of visitors to try sleeping in Viking long houses or thatched-roof huts, feasting and drinking mead.

Employees would be dressed up as characters and lead visitors through the imaginary world on a 250-acre site in Durham, which is planned to be split into themed zones representing fire, water, earth and wind.

The plans were intended to help fund a multi-million pound redevelopment of the Houghall campus of East Durham College, which owns the land.

But now backers of theme park are threatening to pull out unless college bosses drop demands for a £250,000 deposit for the site.

Managing director of Orcestrator, Bruce Murray, said he was being forced to look at alternative sites. "If there is no real movement on their side, we may well have to pull out," he said. "It would be a crying shame."

But Ian Prescott, principal of East Durham College, insisted a deposit was standard procedure and they were asking a fair price. He said: "When we went into bat with Orcestrator, we said the agreement had to be subject to a deposit. We're a public body and the Government requires a deposit. That's been there since day one.

"We would like to go with Orcestrator because we think it's a fantastic development. But I can't say we don't need a deposit. We think it's a fair price."