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Christmas lights in Norwich defended after criticism

PUBLISHED: 08:50 14 December 2019 | UPDATED: 08:50 14 December 2019

The Tunnel of Light as the Norwich Christmas lights are switched on. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

The Tunnel of Light as the Norwich Christmas lights are switched on. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Archant

Norwich Business Improvement District (BID) has defended the Christmas lights in place around the city after they came in for criticism from some quarters.

Todd Cantwell pulls the lever to switch on the 2019 Norwich Christmas lights. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYTodd Cantwell pulls the lever to switch on the 2019 Norwich Christmas lights. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Once again Norwich BID have invested in lighting throughout the city centre for the festive period in 2019, with the main attraction, the Tunnel of Light on Hay Hill, returning for its fourth year.

This year, the branches of 41 trees have been wrapped with bulbs with the aim of creating different and more natural patterns as the sun falls and the lights come on.

But a post in the Norwich Remembers group on Facebook has labelled this year's decorations "a sad, grim sight", with more than 300 other commenters voicing their opinions - positive and negative - of the festive installations.

Andrea Richardson said that the "Christmas lights are beautiful in Norwich", while Shannon Tinker pointed out that the lights "bring people to the city to spend money".

Executive director of Norwich Business Improvement District (BID) Stefan Gurney. Picture: Sonya Duncan.Executive director of Norwich Business Improvement District (BID) Stefan Gurney. Picture: Sonya Duncan.

James Christopher Broome, however, said: "Christmas lights are completely pointless and a waste of valuable resources. We shouldn't have any!"

Norwich BID executive director Stefan Gurney said that "a whole load of work" goes into organising and maintaining the annual lights displays, which he believes are important to businesses in the city during the festive season.

He said: "The Christmas lights are paid for entirely by the business community. They aren't paid for by local authorities or out of the public purse, this is the businesses wanting to make the city as warm and welcoming as possible during a key trading period."

The BID invest in the Tunnel of Light and most other illuminations on trees, lamp posts and on buildings throughout the city, with the exception of those who operate their own schemes such as intu Chapelfield and the Castle Quarter.

Preparation each year can take months, and Mr Gurney said that "a lot of due diligence" is required to ensure that everything goes to plan.

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He said: "We have to take everything through the safety advisory groups, working with police, fire, local authorities and highways. We have to get planning permission, look at health and safety and risk assessments so that the public are kept safe and secure.

"I think the swan analogy is best - everyone sees the beautiful bird swimming seamlessly, but underneath there's a lot of hard paddling to make sure it all works as best as possible without affecting anyone and looks as good as it can through the Christmas period."

What do you think of the Christmas lights in Norwich this year? Let us know in the comments.

What do city businesses think of Norwich's Christmas lights?

They are an annual tradition in the centre of Norwich, but it seems the Christmas lights around the city aren't everyone's mug of cocoa.

While some have criticised them, for various reasons, Norwich BID executive director Stefan Gurney believes that they are an important way of attracting shoppers to the city during the key festive period.

But do businesses in Norwich agree?

Ria Ewles-Giles of Macarons and More in the Royal Arcade said: "The lights are beautiful - they really make the streets feel Christmassy and I think people love coming to see them."

Debbie Worley of Barry's of Norwich in the market said: "They're lovely. It's definitely an attraction that makes people want to shop here."

Sam Maddocks of Strangers Coffee Co. in All Saints Green described the decorations as "tasteful", but said: "I don't think the lights make a difference for customers".


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