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Sittingbourne Christmas Lights Association cancels switch on after council dispute

By Poppy Jeffery

The countdown to Christmas in Sittingbourne will not begin with the town’s lights being switched on this year.

A wrangle between organisers and Swale council over a market being held the same day has resulted in the event’s plug being pulled.

In a statement on its website, Sittingbourne Christmas Lights Association said it had made the “difficult” decision to cancel.

Last year's event featured Father Christmas
Last year's event featured Father Christmas

It said the council had booked a market in the High Street on the same day – Saturday, November 25.

Dave Wood, association treasurer, said: “It’s not going to happen because the event that we run each year is not compatible with the market that’s been planned by the council.

“We don’t understand why they planned a market on the last Saturday in November, when we always do the switch-on that day.

Last year's event
Last year's event

“We’re unable to see how we could do the things we usually do, like a fairground, so in fear of putting on something that wasn’t good enough or safe, it’s been cancelled.”

The group broke the news on its website last week following a committee meeting to discuss the future of the lights.

Mr Wood added that the SCLA was “gutted” to have to cancel after it had become so popular in recent years.

“We are very proud of what we have achieved but we believe safety and quality would be compromised this year,” he said.

A council spokesman said the authority had been working with the committee since March to help co-ordinate the switch-on and the Christmas market.

He added: “We had a useful meeting last week and we are expecting to meet again in the next week or so to exchange information about the stallholders expected.

“We are aware that the committee has announced its intention to cancel the switch-on but we hope this isn’t the case.

“We are still very happy to work with them as we know from the recent experience with the Fusion Festival that events running alongside the market offer mutual benefits.”

The association still plans to put up the lights and organise the Santa sleigh runs around the town and surrounding areas.

It thanked people, businesses and councillors for their support, adding: “Watch this space for something special for Christmas 2018.”

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