THE Christmas lights in Duns are due to be turned on this weekend but when the volunteer committee who put up all the lights started to prepare the festive show last weekend they had a nasty shock - Scottish Borders Council staff had cut the cables in the underground box and removed all the connection gear where the town’s Christmas tree is plugged in.
Faced with the possiblity of having to abandon the town’s festive lights for this year Andrew Lester, chairman of the Duns Christmas Lights Committee said: “SBC said that our Christmas tree lights would not be touched and that the supply for the tree was OK for this year but next year the supply would have to be reduced from 240 volts to 110 so we would need to purchase new lights for the tree, meaning additional fundraising.
“However, when we opened up the box to connect the Christmas tree on Sunday we discovered that the council had severed the cable and removed all the connection gear so we have no electricity for the tree. They insisted all was OK but it certainly isn’t.
“Our group of volunteers have worked very hard putting up the beautiful tree and its lights but we have no electricity supply for it.”
Phone calls by members of the committee to local councillor Frances Renton, however, produced a quick, and fortunately positive reply.
“There was a slight problem and lack of communication but the council guys were there this morning (Tuesday) and fixed the wires; the transformer will be put in on Thursday and the lights are going ahead,” said Councillor Renton who was told that the work had been scheduled for this week.
Unfortunately despite several meetings with council officials the local committee hadn’t been told that changes were being made to the Christmas tree connection, or that it would all be done in time.
Another Duns Christmas lights volunteer Stuart Renton still has concerns and said: “They have guaranteed that the work will be done but we aren’t convinced.”
Back in August Coldstream, Duns and Innerleithen all had the connections into SBC lamp posts for the Christmas lights removed by the council without prior notice and after a public outcry council officials worked with the communities to ensure that new safety approved connection boxes were installed and that the correct voltage was being taken from the street lights for the Christmas lights.
In Coldstream all is well, thanks to the hardworking committee who met with council officials on numerous occasions; and the Christmas lights went up and were successfully switched on last Sunday.
Unfortunately for Duns things have gone less smoothly.
As well as the lack of connection point for the Christmas tree lights, the Duns crew also discovered that there weren’t sufficient connection boxes for all their lights, and local householders and businesses have had to be asked if the lights on the White Swan side of the street can be plugged into their electricity supply.
Mr Lester said: “The new regulations mean that we have to have all the brackets supporting the lights tested by a structural engineer every year. We were lucky this year that the community council paid for this.
“The lights are erected by a group of volunteers who give their time freely.
“It costs us approximately £7,500 a year to put the lights up. All this is donated by local businesses.
“In other towns it would appear that the work is done for them by SBC. I don’t know how this works, I would certainly like to know.”
All appears well now and the hardworking committee are as sure as they can be that when Duns Wynsome Mayde, Claire Wilson presses the switch this Sunday, December 4, at 6.15pm in the Market Square, the town will be illuminated with festive lights.