Ottery Christmas black-out fears

Council fears festive darkness

Civic leaders fear a yuletide black-out over concerns Ottery Chamber of Commerce won’t spend anything on lighting this year.

It was claimed on Monday some traders aren’t even willing to fork out for lights to adorn Christmas trees provided for them.

Town councillors are considering splashing �2,000 of public money to decorate their Old Convent base, the hub of Ottery’s December late-night switch-on bonanza, to set a shining example.

Mayor Glyn Dobson said he’s been told the Chamber of Commerce wasn’t going to donate towards Christmas lights this year.

Council and chamber cash is traditionally used to employ a lighting firm which provides and erects lights.

“The Chamber of Commerce has got to understand it is not acceptable the town is in darkness this Christmas,” said Cllr Ray Bloxham.

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Cllr Ian Holmes wanted to set an example to businesses. He said: “Let’s buy some nice stuff and have our own lights (at the Old Convent). Let’s say to them we’ve done this, now it is up to you. We shouldn’t subsidise commercial enterprises.”

“The idea of lighting up this building and not the rest of the town would be miserable,” said Cllr Claire Wright, who hailed the “lovely warm glow” of the traditional lights display. “If we provide public money I strongly believe it shouldn’t be the council’s full responsibility,” she said. “Two thousand pounds will go nowhere in the Square- it will look like a single light bulb,” said Cllr Paul Lewis.

“Let’s do something as the council for the town, not the council for the council,” he added.

“I’m in the dark,” said Cllr Tony Abbott, a business owner, “It’s not fair to say the chamber won’t pay anything. What they’ve got, they would put in,” he added. “In previous years, I’ve run everything. I haven’t been asked this year.”

Councillors resolved to request talks with the commerce bosses to find a solution.

The new chairman of Ottery Chamber of Commerce declined to comment as the Herald went to press.