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Council alleviates festive light fears

PUBLISHED: 15:26 31 January 2008 | UPDATED: 14:01 21 May 2010

THERE was brighter news on the festive lights front this week as Suffolk County Council emphasised that charges being considered for displays were not mandatory.

THERE was brighter news on the festive lights front this week as Suffolk County Council emphasised that charges being considered for displays were not mandatory.

Both Bungay and Beccles town councils expressed concern last week that if brought in the health-and-safety levies would hit Christmas lights schemes hard.

A county council spokesman said: “As a result of the recent publication of the new code of practice concerning the installation of festive decorations, the county council will be reviewing all current document-ation and licence charges. The money goes towards the cost of inspecting the decorations for reasons of safety.”

She said the code of practice was a national publication by the Institute of Lighting Engineers (ILE).

But Dave Coathan, technical manager for the ILE, said the code of practice had been available since at least May. He said: “It is not mandatory; it is has been written to advise local authorities how to deal with seasonal decorations. It is up to each local authority whether to implement it or not.”

The code is the second edition of a publication which has been available for many years. The new edition has more guidance on the fixings which attach lights to buildings.

As reported last week, the proposals are causing a headache for organisers who are left wondering how they can meet the costs for the displays in December, while town councils have already prepared their year's budget without realising they would be hit by big costs.

Suffolk County Council has written to organisations which run festive lights to warn them it is reviewing its guidelines and charges. A final decision will be made later in the year, but it has suggested they budget for £60 per 10 decorations. One problem is the lack of clarity over what exactly is defined as one decoration. But it seems certain that the charges will be many times more than the current licensing fee, which for most towns is £50 or £55.

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