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Festive lights safeguarded

PUBLISHED: 15:28 09 July 2008 | UPDATED: 14:37 07 July 2010

A re-run of last year's near disaster of Christmas without festive lights has been averted, the Dereham Times can reveal.

The town was faced with being without Christmas lights because of a lack of funding and only a last minute fundraising campaign by The Times meant the hard-working lights partnership could make the town twinkle.

A re-run of last year's near disaster of Christmas without festive lights has been averted, the Dereham Times can reveal.

The town was faced with being without Christmas lights because of a lack of funding and only a last minute fundraising campaign by The Times meant the hard-working lights partnership could make the town twinkle.

But now town residents can look forward to years of lights after the town council got in the festive spirit and offered £8,250 to cover the cost of insurance, replacement lights, new lights and maintenance.

John Gretton said: “Christmas lights is an issue which has bedevilled this town for some years. It is getting the money.

“The partnership relies on four individuals who work as volunteers dedicated to this town.

“And last year we were in a situation where until the very last minute we simply did not know whether there would be the money to do the lights at all. The town could have been dark.

“We don't want to put the partnership through that again. We don't want it to go down to the wire again.

“And no other organisation in the town is in the position to save the Christmas lights quite honestly.”

More than 4,000 people went to the lights switch on last year and it is the biggest single event in the town throughout the year, Mr Gretton said.

The Christmas lights partnership will still have to raise the cash to put on the switch on event and entertainment, prizes and promotion.

But while this year the cash will be spent as a grant, from next year it is hoped the lights will become part of the town council's standard budget, securing the funding of the lights permanently.

A new Christmas lights committee will be set up with four councillors and four partnership members.

George Hayes is director of Dereham area Partnership and a member of the Christmas lights partnership organising committee.

He said the news was brilliant and would both secure Christmas lights for the town for the foreseeable future and would mean they could be improved and updated.

“It is brilliant. It is a major boost and a fantastic step forward.

“There is still a hell of a lot of work to do, fundraising for the other activities and the switch on event.

“The town council covering the cost of the lights and putting them up gives us a major step forward.”

In previous years they have not been able to replace broken lights or update them. The money from the town council will mean they can replace lights and look to enhancing them.

Some councillors were concerned it was too much cash but the vote was carried to hand it over despite two voting against it and two abstaining.

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