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Christmas lights at risk after row over funfair at Swaffham switch-on event

PUBLISHED: 09:33 19 December 2012 | UPDATED: 12:16 21 December 2012

Hundreds of people turned out to see Swaffham's Christmas lights be turned on

Hundreds of people turned out to see Swaffham's Christmas lights be turned on

Archant

Swaffham could be left in the dark next Christmas after organisers of the festive lights switch-on event claimed it was ruined by a decision to hold a funfair nearby.

Swaffham Business Forum opposed the funfair’s approval, made by the town council two weeks before the November 30 event, fearing it was incompatible with the community event with school choirs and reindeer they had planned.

Forum chairman Chris Parsons told Swaffham Town Council last Wednesday the group, which raised £4,000 to pay for the lights and switch-on, had considered cancelling the event, and a number of stallholders pulled out.

He said: “The market square was empty by around 6.45pm and the stalls that had kept faith were poorly supported and will not now be returning. Business and shop takings for the night appear to be around a third of last year.

“Worse, however, was the feeling of dejection felt by our volunteer army, who had worked so hard to promote the lights and the event.

“It remains to be seen whether we will still be able to organise the fundraising events during the coming year, or indeed whether they will be supported if we do.”

The funfair was promoted by town councillor Stewart Bell, who declared a personal interest at the meeting that approved the funfair, and Mr Parsons said there was “an inescapable impression that the town council was prejudiced in favour of its own members”.

Speaking after last week’s meeting, Mr Bell said he paid all the expenses for putting on the funfair from his own private funds, and the showmen donated £250 towards restoring the Pedlar sign.

He said: “I am surprised the business forum has reacted in this way and my only intention was to increase the enjoyment of the evening whilst raising money for the repair of the Pedlar sign. Judging by the high attendance at the funfair and the many favourable comments received, I did just that.”

He added he would seek advice about the forum’s “unfounded” comments about him.

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