‘Disgust and disappointment’ at lights

Whole strings of lights in Fore Street were not working this week

Whole strings of lights in Fore Street were not working this week - Credit: Archant

Business leaders have expressed their ‘disgust’ at Sidmouth’s Christmas lights - and have argued the town should not pay the full £8,800 fee.

Chamber of commerce chairman Mel Gater said she had counted more than 20 bulbs that were faulty or even missing entirely after the installation.

The lights have also come under fire from ratepayers, so the town council may ask businesses to take the lead on next year’s display.

Speaking at Monday’s Sidmouth Town Council tourism and economy committee meeting, Mrs Gater said: “I feel really disgusted and disappointed about this year’s display.

“I really hope this council doesn’t hand over the full amount.”

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She told councillors that she reported the faulty and missing bulbs and was assured they would be fixed the next day, but no contractors arrived.

There were still whole strings of lights down Fore Street not working this week, while elsewhere in town the daily illumination has been unco-ordinated.

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Sidmouth Town Council paid £8,800 for the Christmas lights and the switch-on event. The chamber is contributing £1,500 towards that total.

Mrs Gater said: “We don’t mind paying anything when it’s right, but for them not to get it sorted is very poor.

“I’m not sure we should hand over our £1,500.”

Councillor Dawn Manley said: “It’s not just the chamber that’s disappointed – it’s the townspeople and the ratepayers.

“We all share your frustrations.”

Cllr Stuart Hughes added: “Tiverton got a lot of publicity [for lights that looked like Y-fronts on a washing line] – what we got in Sidmouth was really pants.”

Town clerk Christopher Holland told the Herald this was the final year of Sidmouth and Exmouth’s joint contract with Gala Lights and he was personally disappointed with how the display had looked.

He said contractors had always come out to fix damaged lights and address faults, although not always within the stated 24 hours, and the late addition of lights down Church Street mean the display is actually more extensive than last year’s.

Mr Holland added that the council is looking at how to manage its display in 2016 and how to involve as many businesses as possible for ‘town-wide participation’ – perhaps with the chamber taking the lead, as in all other East Devon towns.

“Whatever happens, there will be lights in Sidmouth in 2016,” he added.

Gala Lights was approached for comment but had not responded as the Herald went to press yesterday.

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