A group of Dales businessmen have delivered an ultimatum to French cement group Lafarge: "Lease us the Blue Circle site or pull it down".

The disillusioned group has formed the Weardale Business Action Forum following months of speculation surrounding the redundant site in Eastgate.

They say that people living in the dale have been made a laughing stock through recent suggestions for the regeneration of the area including a Mr Bean type theme park, bee-keeping and an Eco-Disneyland.

County councillor for the Dale John Shuttleworth said: "Enough is enough. We want something done. We want an answer by the end of the week.

"There is an offer on the table that will create 135 manufacturing jobs and it is being ignored.

"We want Lafarge to either agree to lease the units and the workshops or pull the place down and retain it as a greenfield site under the conditions that were laid out in 1963.''

Coun Shuttleworth and fellow forum members feel that plans by Westgate businessman Terry Simmons to create a building board factory is a viable option which will create much needed jobs.

A spokesman for Lafarge said he did not want to comment until he had spoken directly with the forum.

Chairman of One NorthEast Dr John Bridge said: "We totally refute any suggestion that there has been any secret negotiations about the site."

He said proposals for a disused railway line in the area were to use it as a passenger line as it did not run beyond Stanhope to serve the Eastgate site.

Options for the site still remained open and no decisions had been made.