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Bodmin councillors pull plug on town's Christmas lights

By Cornish Guardian  |  Posted: November 09, 2012

Bodmin Christmas lights switch on in 2011

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THERE will be no Christmas lights in Bodmin this year after councillors voted to pull the plug on the town's festive illuminations.

The town council says it cannot afford to pay £3,500 needed to carry out emergency repairs.

A lack of financial support from national retailers and the refusal of some shop occupiers along the main street to supply power has compounded the problems, it says.

The only Christmas lights shining in Bodmin will be in Honey Street, where the traders organise their own illuminations.

The council will still put up Christmas trees on Mount Folly and is now actively discussing plans for a replacement celebration on Mount Folly.

Phil Kerridge, who chairs the council's promotions committee, said members reluctantly agreed that the council could not spend money not allocated in the budget on the lights.

"The town has relied for many years on a dwindling band of volunteers to erect and maintain the Christmas lights," he said.

"In many ways, it's been a miracle that the town has had lights for the last few years.

"The problems are with electric supply boxes in 18 buildings up and down Fore Street. Some are on empty buildings with no access to an electrical supply and need relocation. Others are on buildings where new occupants are unwilling to allow their supply to be used for the lights.

"Some boxes are no longer functional. Others are on temporary rigs, leaving the Christmas lights vulnerable to being switched off.

"The council has only just discovered the full extent of the problems. With the lack of interest from the big shops in Fore Street, the very short timescale and the problems of negotiating access with owners of vacant property, there was no support on the council for employing a contractor to undertake the work."

The council was committed to supporting Christmas in Bodmin with celebrations on its own land on Mount Folly and in the Shire Hall.

"It's not that councillors aren't interested in lights in Fore Street – in fact, two volunteered to give personal donations towards lights this year – but until the chain stores show more interest there has been no majority among councillors to spend more public money on lights in Fore Street.

"There are some towns like Bodmin which aren't relying on volunteers and donations for their lights. They're paying upwards of £20,000 a year to contractors to maintain the lights and for secure storage. In the current climate, most councillors think that's far too much."

Chamber of commerce chairman Chris Wilkes said an emergency meeting would be held.

"We're fighting against time, but something has to be done and I hope we can pull something out of the bag," he said.

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