STRONG winds put a gloomy end to the chance of greeting the festive season with a bang, as Christmas festivities fireworks were called off.
Saturday’s (November 24) eagerly-awaited Christmas lights switch-on, followed by the fireworks finale was cancelled after safety concerns from high strength winds.
City centre manager Kim Long explained: “The wind gusts would have been too dangerous. There’s a maximum wind speed that you can set fireworks off in. The Met Office predictions exceeded that and the wind direction could have caused debris to fall in areas where it would not have been safe.
750 business premises contributed towards the event, in a venture forming part of the City Centre Partnership’s Business Improvement District (BID) initiative.
“It is a shame that BID couldn’t showcase its first major event. However there is always next year and we will continue to work hard with the remaining events to increase footfall.
“Generally the businesses are disappointed. They were anticipating a day of high turn-over and it never materialised, but we are hopeful the Christmas Craft market will bring the money in and get those figures up,” added Mrs Long.
A joint decision was made by the mayor, Anne Scicluna, the City Council, The Rotary Clubs and The City Centre Partnership to not go ahead with the light switch-on event.
“It takes six weeks to get a road closure order and you get the order because there is nowhere else in the city big enough to take the anticipated crowd,” Mrs Long said. The hiring of the location, the first aid cover and 100 marshals required to run the event safely were also factors which led to the event being cancelled and not re-arranged.
“The businesses are realistic that an awful lot of work has gone into this and at the end of the day there was nothing we could do about the weather, it was unfortunately against us,” added Mrs Long. Despite bad weather, more than 48,000 people took to the streets of the city on Saturday.
The mayor quietly switched on the lights at 5.30pm, which followed the tree blessing by the Dean of the Cathedral and Chichester’s three rotary clubs.
City centre bosses were disappointed to learn that the lights on the Christmas tree outside The Cross had been vandalised on Sunday evening, however they have been fixed and were switched on again on Monday.
Saturday’s stormy weather didn’t put a stop to Bognor Regis taking part in the festive celebrations, with more than 200 spectators turning out to see Bognor illuminated for their Christmas lights switch-on.
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