Anger as festive lights appear early

A CIVIC leader in a west Suffolk town has described himself as “sickened” after seeing the Christmas lights turned on - 77 days before the big day.Residents in Bury St Edmunds were shocked to see seasonal light displays already illuminated all day and night on Saturday and Sunday over a weekend of fine late-summer weather.

A CIVIC leader in a west Suffolk town has described himself as “sickened” after seeing the Christmas lights turned on - 77 days before the big day.

Residents in Bury St Edmunds were shocked to see seasonal light displays already illuminated all day and night on Saturday and Sunday over a weekend of fine late-summer weather.

Paul Hopfensperger, Suffolk County Council member for Tower ward, hit out at the unseasonally-timed display, which is the responsibility of his wife - the town mayor Rebecca Hopfensperger, who is also chair of the town council's Christmas lights committee.

She said the lights have had to be put up early and tested for health and safety reasons.


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Mr Hopfensperger said: “Everyone has been complaining to me about them. Not only are the lights up they were on over the weekend.

“Christmas is in December and the lights are normally put up in November but they have been on all weekend. It is sickening and completely wrong and everyone says the same.

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“I've sent a letter of complaint to the town clerk. It is bad enough to have them up in October without having them on - it detracts from the occasion.”

David Nettleton, St Edmundsbury and Town councillor, said: “Christmas gets earlier and earlier every year and I wish it would get later. It is only October and people will be sick of it by December - I would support putting the lights on a lot later.”

Bury Chamber of Commerce president Chrissie Harrod said although she was not involved in organising the display she believed the lights had to go up early for safety reasons.

She said the town's numerous old plastered buildings represented a technical challenge for the installers who had a number of towns on their books to decorate.

“They should be saved until November 16 when they are being switched on during a ceremony,” she said.

“I certainly wouldn't like to see Christmas starting any earlier than the six weeks we already have because people will get really fed up.”

Mrs Hopfensperger said the town council had to replace much of the infrastructure of the lights and had installed new ones which takes time to test for safety.

She said: “I am aware of everyone's concerns. But we must obey health and safety law and have all the lights tested by both qualified electricians and Suffolk County Council.

“We've been organising this since January and we have made a huge investment and hopefully they will not need to be tested so thoroughly and so early next year.

“We are also making plans to make the lights less conspicuous before we are ready to switch them on.”

This year the EADT has already reported on St Edmundsbury Cathedral which released its Advent and Christmas programme 14 weeks before the big day.

Church leaders said they had to release details early so people could plan ahead.

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