Controversy-hit Christmas Lapland closes

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The Independent Online

A Christmas Lapland-style attraction dubbed a "glorified car boot sale" by disgruntled visitors has closed, police said today.

Lapland New Forest at Matchams Leisure Park, near the town of Ringwood on the Dorset-Hampshire border, has been the focus a storm of controversy since it opened on November 28.

Trading standards officials have received more than 2,000 complaints alleging the site, which charges between £25-£30 each to enter, was "a rip off".

Since the opening of the attraction there were reports of violence flaring at the site with Santa being punched in the face and elves also pushed by angry visitors who had waited hours in the cold.

Many visitors complained that a "magical tunnel of light" turned out to be a line of trees with some lights on them, and log cabins resembled B&Q sheds.

Reindeer and huskies were also penned up or tethered almost out of sight and an ice rink was not working.

A spokesman for Dorset Police said: "We have been told that the Lapland New Forest attraction has this morning been closed permanently and that contractors and stall holders are leaving the site."

The spokesman added that police were called to the attraction this morning over fears there would be a breach of the peace because some contractors had alleged they had not been paid.

He said no-one was arrested and police did not close the site.

Outside the gates the entrance is coned off with a closed sign a foot high in place. People are asked to look at the website for further details but nothing has been added.

Over the last few days it appeared there had been very few visitors to the attraction.

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

In a statement released on the company's website Victor Mears, director of Lapland New Forest Ltd, said it was with "my deepest regret and sincerest apology" that he had to close the park.

He added: "For all people wishing to claim financial reimbursement I can only advise (at the time of writing) that you return to our website for further information on this important matter.

"Both I and all of the Lapland New Forest Team have had every intention of both continuing and continuing to enhance our children's event... We have all put many months of hard planning, endeavour and finance into the Christmas theme park. Our wonderful venture and advertising campaign proved to be highly popular and many of our visitors did have a great day with us.

"From myself and every member of the Lapland New Forest Team to all of our valued customers and incredible team players that contributed so much to our honourable enterprise - we look forward to reaching a clear and satisfactory conclusion as soon as is possible."