Anger over Christmas blow for towns

FESTIVE cheer will be lacking in Harwich and Dovercourt this Christmas with the demise of the towns' traditional lights and late night shopping.Traders in the neighbouring towns have been forced to scrap their Christmas lights due to new health and safety rules.

By Annie Davidson

FESTIVE cheer will be lacking in Harwich and Dovercourt this Christmas with the demise of the towns' traditional lights and late night shopping.

Traders in the neighbouring towns have been forced to scrap their Christmas lights due to new health and safety rules.

The decision has also been taken to call off the annual late night shopping events, which traditionally begin with the lights being turned on for the first time.


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Jamie Shrive, vice chairman of Harwich Traders' Association, said it would have cost around £2,000 to put the lights up.

New regulations mean the lights must be put up by a qualified electrician and specific brackets must also be used and tested for weight bearing.

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Mr Shrive, who owns the Stingray pub in Church Street, Harwich, said he had put up the lights for the last ten years.

“Last year we put the lights up and we had these guys from highways come down and say we were breaking highway requirements,” he said.

“We think it would cost about £2,000 to put the lights up. We just can't do that.”

Mr Shrive also criticised Harwich Town Council for not contributing towards putting the lights up.

He said it led to traders wondering why they were bothering and a decision not to hold the late night shopping.

“Not having the lights is awful, it is a horrible thing and I am very disappointed,” Mr Shrive said.

“If they (the council) would sort out meeting the requirements for the lights we would organise the street fair.”

Terry Howlett, chairman of Dovercourt Traders, said the organisation also felt it could not manage to finance putting up the lights under the new regulations, estimating it would cost £10,000.

However, some traders in Dovercourt may hold a late-night opening event

Of the lights, Mr Howlett added: “We could not do it ourselves,” he said. “It is a great shame. It has been very well supported in the past.”

Both Mr Shrive and Mr Howlett claimed a cherry picker rather than a ladder would have to be used to put up the lights - increasing the cost of installing them.

Les Double, chairman of finance and general purposes committee for Harwich Town Council, said no request had been made this year for Christmas lights funding.

But he said in previous years the council had given money to both Harwich and Dovercourt to help pay for the Christmas lights.

“I am very disappointed it is not happening but we don't want to get into a culture of blame,” he added.

“It is no-one's fault that the lights are not going up, it seems to be there are not enough people willing to help.”

A spokesman for Essex County Council highways department said: “These are national guidelines under the code of practice for installation, operation and removal of seasonal decorations.

“We have issued information on this to all interested parties in the area to ensure they are fully informed.

“We are obliged to ensure work is done safely to safeguard the public. If anyone requires advice on this then we are happy to assist.”

She added there was nothing in the guidelines which specified the use of a cherry picker.

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