Town vows to fight red tape over lights

PUBLISHED: 17:14 15 November 2007 | UPDATED: 21:52 29 May 2010

Dunmow and District Chamber of Trade and Commerce chairman Mike Perry (left) and treasurer Kevin Smith with one of the Christmas tree lights – Pic: Michael Boyton

Dunmow and District Chamber of Trade and Commerce chairman Mike Perry (left) and treasurer Kevin Smith with one of the Christmas tree lights - Pic: Michael Boyton

By Nick Thompson nick.thompson@archant.co.uk SHOPOWNERS and managers have vowed to fight red tape and mounting costs to ensure Christmas lights go up in Dunmow this year. Dunmow and District Chamber of Trade and Commerce met on Monday night to discuss ne

By Nick Thompson

nick.thompson@archant.co.uk

SHOPOWNERS and managers have vowed to fight red tape and mounting costs to ensure Christmas lights go up in Dunmow this year.

Dunmow and District Chamber of Trade and Commerce met on Monday night to discuss new laws, which were threatening to overshadow the town's Christmas lights display.

Chairman Mike Perry said he had been pushed between Uttlesford District Council and Essex County Council trying to find out what guidelines they need to follow.

On top of that he said the chamber had been quoted £3500 plus VAT to erect the lights - an increase of £1000 on last year.

After hearing that Saffron Walden Town Council is footing a £19,000 bill to ensure the lights go up, Owen Wilson, clerk of Dunmow Town Council said: "If anybody wishes to put a proposal to the council we will be happy to consider it at our next meeting on November 22."

Chamber secretary Sue Snell said: "It will be so awful if Dunmow doesn't have the Christmas lights."

Mr Perry agreed. He said: "This government introduced 17,600 new regulations in its first four years and since then it has gotten worse, it really has gone beyond mad.

"If Dunmow wants to have lights at all this year then we may need a more gung-ho operation and just go ahead and do it ourselves".

Members agreed saying they would help out and called on other shopkeepers to display Christmas lights on their buildings.

Treasurer Kevin Smith said: "I will help put them up. If it takes a set of ladders and a few weeks to put them up I'll blooming well do that. The town looks really good with them. Let's just bypass the rules if we can and be as law-abiding as possible."

He said he would ask Dunmow fire service if they would be willing to help.

Cllr Norman Hume, cabinet member for highways and transportation at Essex County Council said it had been working with the organisers of Christmas light displays across the county since August.

He said: "We are helping them to meet their obligations regarding public safety.

"In a small number of instances guidelines have not been met and we are working hard with organisers to ensure they are able to put up displays, which are safe as well as impressive in time for Christmas."

If the chamber chose to ignore the guidelines and installed the lights, Essex County Council said it would reserve the right to enforce removal as with another obstruction to the highway.

The chamber only has 600 bulbs for a display, compared with 1000 last year, so Mr Perry has urged anyone with any spare, or those who can provide lighting or expert electrical knowledge to call him on 01371 872129.

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Christmas lights guidelines...

The Broadcast spoke to Essex County Council to find out the Chamber's obligations over Christmas lights.

Before they can hang a single bulb they would need to provide:

- A structural survey proving their display will not pose a danger to the public,

- Proof of public liability insurance, and

- An out of hours plan should the decorations fall onto the highway,

- Proof of electricity supply as the highways electricity must not be used without permission, and

- A safe source of electricity must be used

These are all laid out in the guidelines followed by councils laid down by the Institute of Lighting Engineers.

Where lights are over a pedestrianised area or one not owned by ECC the district council will be responsible or the private landowner of that area.

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