Lapland shut down after angry visitor punches Santa in the face

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

Lapland New Forest at Matchams Leisure Park near Ringwood in Dorset has been the focus a storm of controversy since opening on 28 November.

Trading standards has received more than 2,000 complaints about the attraction, which charges between 25 and 30 per person to enter.

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Many people have also contacted local papers and radio stations, claiming chaotic queues of up to three hours in the wet and cold to see Santa.

There have been reports of violence flaring, with Santa being punched in the face and elves also pushed by angry visitors.

Many visitors also complained that a "magical tunnel of light" turned out to be a line of trees with some lights on them, while 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 Dorset Police spokesman said officers were called to the attraction yesterday over fears there would be a breach of the peace because some contractors had alleged they had not been paid.

Outside the gates, the entrance was coned off with a "closed" sign in place.

Over the last few days, it appeared there had been very few visitors to the attraction. Henry Mears, the event's advertising manager, from Brighton, has been unavailable for comment since Monday, but at the weekend he blamed the complaints on a small number of "troublemakers" and said the ice rink had been fixed.

He denied visitors had been ripped off but admitted family illness and unreliable staff had caused problems initially.

Families were not amused and called the site a scam, a joke and looking more like a car boot sale than Lapland. Trading standards officers from Dorset County Council said they had visited the site but did not have the power to shut it down.

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

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