IT was to be a tourist attraction to rival the likes of Disney World and would bring in hundreds of thousands of visitors from all over the world.

But, sadly, a project to put East Lancashire firmly on the global map never got off the ground.

In the late 1980s, people around these parts were in one of two camps.

There were the ones who thought the plans by Stockport millionaire Eddie Quiligotti to make the former Huncoat Power Station site into a winter sports wonderland were the work of a true visionary.

Making the so-called Zeri project a success would reap massive rewards for local people for years to come.

Then there were those who thought the plans were a load of pie-in-the-sky cobblers.

They were to be proved right, but not before the plans got a long way along the road to becoming reality.

The ceramic tile magnate was convinced there was mileage in his plans to redevelop the 300-acre site to include year-round summer and winter 'worlds' inside temperature-controlled glass structures.

There would also be a huge 15,000-seater stadium and a 300-room hotel.

The winter wonderland was to have contained an ice palace, skiing on six dry slopes, a toboggan run and a lake while a sea world would have provided aquaria, water rides and boat trips.

Restaurants, shops, cinemas, villas, a conference centre and gardens would have been linked by a one-and-a-half-mile-long cable car track similar to the one used in ski resorts.

It was to have cost £300m to build and by 1990 discussions with prospective contractors were in full swing after Hyndburn Council gave the project its blessing.

One planning official said: "This is the biggest thing that will ever happen around here. People will be attracted to the area for holidays and some may never set foot outside the complex."

Kesterbrook - the company formed by Mr Quiligotti - held preliminary talks with AMEC, French contractor Bouygues, Laing, a consortium of Sir Robert McAlpine and Elldon, and Taylor Woodrow.

Environment secretary Chris Patten also said that the scheme would not be called in by his department.

The only hurdle remaining was whether Kesterbrook could raise the necessary finance, a detail which had dogged the similar WonderWorld Leisure development near Corby in Northamptonshire.

French contractor Bouygues, chosen to build WonderWorld, had been waiting to start since August 1989.

At its peak the project was expected to create up to 2,000 construction jobs and take around two years to build.

But ultimately, Mr Quiligotti's vision proved too out-there for financial backers who were hard to find.

He said sadly: "It is all over. I have been banging my head against a brick wall."

The plans were scrapped and Huncoat was left with the decaying site, which still stands there to this day.