Race against time for Christmas light displays

IT may only be mid September and the ‘Christmas’ word may not be one you want to hear yet, but for those organising the festive light displays in Duns and Coldstream time is running out to ensure that, after the council removed all festive light connections into the towns’ street lights in June this year, their Christmas lights can be switched on as normal.

Little or no warning was given back in June when Scottish Borders Council removed the connections on the grounds of safety, compliance with legislation and the risk of prosecution for theft of electricity and since then Coldstream and Duns groups, who have raised thousands of pounds to buy and erect the Christmas lights, have been in regular contact with council officials to try and reach a solution that will allow the towns to have their usual festive displays.

The Duns Erection Section were told that they needed to get a structural engineer’s report that indicated that the brackets used to put up the Christmas displays were strong enough to comply with health and safety regulations and group spokesperson Stuart Renton said this week: “We are in the process of employing a structural engineer who will examine the brackets on September 25. After that we will present the report to the council and we should be up and running again.”

In Coldstream the solution is not quite so straight forward. The weather-proof connection boxes removed by SBC will need to be replaced, at the top of the lighting columns rather than near the bottom as previously, and because there is a limit of 1000 watts that can be plugged into any one lamp post either the number of Christmas lights will have to be reduced or alternatively replaced with more energy efficient LED lights. There is also the added complication of two of the lamp posts - at the Town Head and opposite at the top of Market Street, being currently unable to be used for extra lights.

Following a meeting last Friday, September 9, between Coldstream Gateway Trust Association and Scottish Borders Council’s environment and infrastructure asset manager David Richardson, agreement was reached that SBC would have the defective light columns upgraded by mid October and SBC would also pay for the weatherproof connection boxes (16 boxes costing £198 each). The Gateway Association and Coldstream as a whole would have to take responsibility for buying the 600 LED lights that would be needed to replace the traditional bulbs that have been used, and these cost £2.68 each.

In the past Coldstream’s Christmas decorations have cost around £1,000 a year to run and it is estimated that with the purchase of the LED lights, plus the electricity used, that this year’s cost will be a one-off £5000.

Future costs should reduce as LED lights do not need replaced so frequently, nor do they use as much electricity as ordinary bulbs but Coldstream’s Gateway Association have been left with trying to raise £4000 within the next two months.

As yet, SBC will not commit themselves to paying for anything more than the connection boxes in Coldstream, Mr Richardson saying: “This project is in the very early stage of a two year period and, although we have estimated costs for each town/village, until we actually carry out these works and establish costs we don’t know how accurate we are against the fixed available budget.

“I know that this decision does not help you in your immediate plans but it does not yet close the door completely for the future.”