Beds, Herts & Bucks

Milton Keynes Winter Wonderland closes after complaints

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Media captionThe Winter Wonderland was closed after one day and branded "a disgrace"

A Winter Wonderland event in Milton Keynes has been cancelled on its second day after complaints from visitors.

The attraction at Campbell Park, which included paid-for events such as ice skating, opened on Saturday.

But its Facebook page was deluged by people angry at what was on offer. Santa's Grotto was said to be staffed by young, thin men and an ice rink was described as "a few plastic sheets".

Wonderland organiser Lorenzo Franco claimed 200 people had been refunded.

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Media captionDad Dean Beaumont: "Santa had a very strong accent and probably couldn't have been more than 22"

'Outfits from Poundland'

Mr Franco said he was sorry if anyone was "disappointed in any way", adding that it was the firm's "first event".

He told BBC Look East: "I am very sorry to disappoint people. It was not my intention. It was meant to be family fun event."

Mr Franco claimed he had cancelled the event due to the weather and said those who had bought tickets would have their money refunded.

Following a barrage of criticism from parents, the Winter Wonderland MK Facebook page was taken down on Saturday.

Those who had paid £6 to take their children to Santa's Grotto found it was closed for much of the day and, when it did open, the Santas were described as being young, thin men in Santa suits.

Visitors also complained that the advertising suggested more than two reindeer would be at the site.

Grandmother Lesley Keys, from Bedford, took her seven-year-old grandson on Saturday.

She had paid in £65 in advance for various attractions including a visit to Santa's Grotto.

"When we arrived we were told Santa wouldn't be there until after 4pm. We were told we could walk through the woodland, which turned out to be a tent with some statues," she said.

"We saw some husky dogs but there were no rides [on dog-drawn sleighs].

"The fairground rides were poor and the ice rink was a few plastic sheets. My grandson was very disappointed."

Image caption Visitors to the Wonderland criticised the synthetic ice rink provided

One mother writing on a parents' blog site said her family had paid £42 to book tickets only to find "men dressed in Santa outfits from Poundland".

"This was definitely no Wonderland," she wrote.

Following the criticism the charity partner of the event, the Papworth Trust, said in a statement: "As the benefiting charity associated with the Winter Wonderland MK event, we have been concerned to hear about the issues on the opening day.

"We are sorry to hear about people's experiences of the day. After consulting with our volunteers and listening to the public's feedback, we have sadly decided to withdraw our volunteers and our association with the event.

"We were hoping that this event would raise money for our work helping older and disabled people with essential support and care."

'Very disappointing'

Milton Keynes South MP Iain Stewart, who was due to attend the attraction in support of the Papworth Trust, said he hoped refunds would be provided and would help any constituents get redress from the organisers.

"I am always happy to support the charity (the Papworth Trust) and it is very disappointing that this event has ended up like this," he said.

Image caption Tents at Winter Wonderland MK were dismantled on the second day of the event when it was cancelled

A spokesman from the Parks Trust, which looks after Campbell Park, said: "We are very sorry to hear that some people have had such a disappointing experience at Winter Wonderland MK.

"Winter Wonderland MK have told us that they will be contacting all the customers on their database to arrange refunds.

"Before the Parks Trust hires out any sites out to third parties we do ensure that organisers have robust health and safety policies, are fully insured and have a detailed event management plan in place.

"We are saddened that Winter Wonderland MK did not meet some customers' expectations."

Image caption The event's cancellation was announced on the Wonderland website

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