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£20,000 Christmas lights in Watton hope to bring cheer – but what do you think?

PUBLISHED: 12:54 20 November 2013 | UPDATED: 12:54 20 November 2013

Watton town centre will be illuminated for Christmas next Sunday. Picture; Matthew Usher.

Watton town centre will be illuminated for Christmas next Sunday. Picture; Matthew Usher.

© Archant Norfolk 2013

Watton will unveil one of the most expensive Christmas light displays in the district next weekend.

The town council has allocated £20,000 to light up the High Street, Chaston Place and the clock tower in the run-up to the festivities.

After the plug was pulled on last year’s annual switch-on because of a lack of volunteers, councillors decided to earmark the amount from its £269,000 ring-fenced budget for this year.

About £20,000 is being spent in Attleborough and £8,000 over three years in Swaffham.

And in Dereham the town council failed to raise the £6,000 needed for its traditional display and has downsized its illuminations to a central Christmas tree and selected lit-up buildings.

Watton councillors had discussed a celebrity switch-on on December 1, but instead chairman of the council and town mayor Lorraine McCarthy will do the honours.

Mrs McCarthy said she hoped this year’s illuminations would “rectify what’s been unsuccessful over the last few years”.

She said: “I am hoping the display will be fabulous.

“It is taxpayer’s money and people of Watton wanted it [the lights].”

The displays in Watton and Attleborough are put up by professional contractors whereas other towns rely on volunteer manpower.

But Watton town councillor Beryl Bunning, who has organised the switch-on’s festive market, live entertainment, a Santa’s grotto and carol singing, said community-spirited volunteers could not help this year because of health and safety requirements.

“In previous years we had two councillors putting the lights up. [Now] it’s got to be done by contractors to meet requirements of health and safety, we can’t just have people going up ladders,” she said.

“There was so much moaning last year about the lights that there wasn’t going to be any. But we couldn’t do a lot of things without the right equipment.

“The public really like to see the lights. It’s the one bit of cheer at Christmas we can have.

“We try to look after what we have and spend the money wisely for the residents of Watton. It is a lot of money but I hope that when the public see them they will be happy.”

The money, which has bought the town more than 50pc of the lights, was put aside by the council in November last year when members were setting this year’s budget.

There were discussions at the town council meeting last week about the contents of the 2014 budget, including the amount to be allocated to Christmas lights for next year.

The draft budget will be discussed in public on Tuesday November 26 at 7pm in St Mary’s Church Hall on Church Road, Watton at 7pm.

The Christmas event, which is organised with the Watton Town Team, a group set up to reinvigorate the High Street, is on Sunday, December 1 at 1.30pm with the lights being turned on at 4pm. Swaffham’s Christmas lights will be switched on at 5.30pm on the same day.

What do you think about £20,000 being spent on Watton’s lights? Email rosa.mcmahon@archant.co.uk

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