Lack of business support threatens Dereham’s Christmas lights

PUBLISHED: 11:16 03 February 2013 | UPDATED: 11:16 03 February 2013

Craig Richardson turned on the Christmas lights in Dereham. Picture: Ian Burt

Craig Richardson turned on the Christmas lights in Dereham. Picture: Ian Burt

Archant © 2012

Dereham’s festive illuminations could be reduced to a Christmas tree and lights on the Assembly Rooms after businesses failed to respond to town council pleas to contribute to their costs.

Craig Richardson turned on the Christmas lights in Dereham. Picture: Ian Burt Craig Richardson turned on the Christmas lights in Dereham. Picture: Ian Burt

The town council, which currently pays £5,000 for the display, twice wrote to companies last year warning 2012 would be the last full display unless they helped to fund them in the future.

Town clerk Tony Needham said no businesses responded, and councillors will now write to those that are based around the Market Place to tell them how much it will cost them to have lights on their properties.

He said that if no business funding came forward the annual lights switch-on event, which thousands of people attend each November, would become a Christmas tree switch-on event.

Linda Monument, who chaired the meeting of the social and welfare committee, said: “We are extremely disappointed to find that whereas I believe 10 or 15 years ago we contributed to the costs of the lights rather than paying for all of it, we have been asked for more and more and had to take over the expense completely.

“We have tried to keep the same sum of money each year to run the lights, and having run it for a few years we know we can’t maintain the standard of lights and pay for them to be put up and taken down again out of the budget we can afford. We are talking about thousands of pounds.

“We have asked independent traders and the Chamber of Trade and we have had no support from either.

“This is something the town community needs to support and the town business community needs to support and it needs to be supported by the Chamber of Trade and the big national companies as well as the little local traders.”

She voiced fears that if the switch-on event only applied to a Christmas tree, rather than the whole Market Place, fewer people would attend.

Stephen Cross, secretary of Dereham Chamber of Trade, said: “I would like to think there will be something in the Market Place and I would like to think the local traders will contribute to the costs, but I don’t know if the scale will be the same as in previous years because I don’t believe we will be able to raise that sort of cash.

“I have Dereham at my heart and we need to find a way to have something in the town. It may be we can’t have the lights we previously had, but we need to have some festive Christmas thing in the town, and I am confident we will.”

*What do you think? Would you be prepared to pay more to ensure the town centre is illuminated and the lights switch on event continues? Comment below.

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