Town's Xmas tree health and safety delay

AN Essex coastal resort has suffered an early festive crisis because a health and safety row has led to a delay in its Christmas tree being put up.

Elliot Furniss

AN Essex coastal resort has suffered an early festive crisis because a health and safety row has led to a delay in its Christmas tree being put up.

The Walton Forum wanted to create a permanent hole in the town's Millennium Square so that a tree, fixed to a metal pole, can be installed every year.

But Tendring District Council has turned down the group's request because of fears over health and safety.


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In past years the tree has gone on display after being planted in a barrel and tied to the ground.

But John Halls, the forum's chairman, said the alternative suggestion would be better in the long term.

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He said: “We have had the Christmas tree there for nine or 10 years and what we wanted to do (this year) was put a metal tube into the ground so all we have to do is drop the 26ft tree into the ground.

“We'd been talking about it (with the council) for about four months and we thought we were all home and dry. But there's all this bureaucracy.”

The forum was told by council officers that its plans would have needed a two metre by two metre 20 ton concrete foundation, which would have cost about £2,000 and was not viable.

Mr Halls added: “We will still be putting a tree up there the old way and hopefully the next year we can get it sorted out.”

Douglas Carswell, MP for the Harwich constituency, which covers Walton, said the district council needed to be “flexible” in such situations.

He said: “This is obviously a local tradition and the council should be helping local people in Walton celebrate Christmas, not putting obstacles in their way.”

Nigel Brown, the council's communications manager, said its officers had been in discussion with the forum over the issue of the positioning of the Christmas tree and its installation “for some time”.

“Officers have made every effort to try to help them come up with an acceptable solution and accommodate their requirements,” he said. “However, the council is the landowner of the Millennium Square and as such must ensure that whatever is put up on the site is both suitable and safe.”

He added that the forum had put forward its own proposal and a structural engineer checked over the design.

“However, it was felt that the arrangement was not safe and an alternative design was put forward,” he said. “We are always happy to discuss this matter further with them but the interests of public safety must come first.”

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