A market town has become the first in Britain to put up its Christmas lights three months early – due to health and safety regulations.
The lights in Coleford, Glos., take months to erect because each bulb and fitting has to be rigorously tested to meet safety regulations.
Council chiefs are reluctant to shell out for contractors so a team of seven volunteers have started the painstaking task of installing and testing the fixtures.
Town Clerk Annie Lapington said: “As the town council, we give a grant to the group so our Christmas lights are much more cost effective than other towns’.
“They are moving to totally LED lights which are much more environmentally friendly.”
The move to LED lights means every decoration has to be painstakingly tested to see if it adheres to stringent EU regulations.
Volunteers will be working every weekend to make sure the town is ready for the big switch-on, which is set to take place on November 30 during the town’s Christmas festival.
Kevin Wilkins, 44, said: “We get quite a lot of abuse from people in the community who think we start too early.
“But there are over 160 illuminations and everything has to be checked for safety.
“We are down on volunteers at the moment and if we had more we could start later.
“If some more people could come forward to help it would be great.”
Kevin has given hundreds of man hours during his 15 years as a volunteer.
Generous donations from townsfolk help the Coleford Christmas Lights Committee pay for safety contracts and insurance to cover working on ladder and using cherry-picker cranes to put the lights up.
Dad-of-four Kevin said: “When people moan we just say ‘Merry Christmas’.”
He said the “smiling faces” on the big night make all the hard work and flack they take worthwhile.
Mrs Lapington said: “Our Christmas lights are done by a group of volunteers, who only work on a Sunday.
“They have six Sundays in which to put up a fantastic display, before they are switched on on the last Friday in November.”
The lights – which are paid for with funds raised by the committee and a £4,000 grant from Coleford Town Council – will be turned on on November 30 and left up until January.
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