A DOOMED cement works could be turned into an indoor ski slope, it was revealed this week.

The idea, which would include real snow, is one of the options being put forward for the former Blue Circle plant at Eastgate in Weardale.

Durham County Council chief executive Kingsley Smith, a leading member of the task group set up to help regenerate Weardale following the demise of the cement works, believes the idea could attract tourists from a wide area.

Mr Smith said: "I believe it is a real possibility. It just needs the right backing."

Operations at the Eastgate site are due to end in about six weeks and the task force is striving to find new jobs for the 147 employees.

The plant is estimated to be worth about £12m to the local economy and council officials are desperate to come up with a plan which will ease the blow to the area.

Durham County Council wanted to sell the works as a going concern after French-owned Lafarge announced in January it was to wind down the operation.

Lafarge, the world's biggest cement company, angered workers by rejecting the proposal and shunning talks with two possible buyers for the plant - Weardale businessman Angus Ward and an unknown European cement manufacturer said to be interested in buying it.

Mr Smith met representatives of the European company in London in February.

He appealed to Bertrand Collomb, chairman and chief executive of Lafarge, to give his backing for a meeting between the company and the European manufacturers, but Lafarge said it did not want to sell the plant to a competitor.

Production at the 37-year-old Eastgate works is due to finish on Friday, August 9.

Only 50 people will remain, to send out any materials left and start clearing the site, the rest either leaving or transferring to jobs in the firm's other UK operations.

Lafarge hopes to have new depots in Seaham and Carlisle operating by September and October.

Weardale staffing will reduce further, leaving only ten to manage the transfer of equipment, demolition and site restoration next year.