On 15 May 2023, Totnes Town Councillors met to agree the way forward to make sure the town does have a display of festive lights this year. Previously, the lights festooned across the street had been put up and managed by the Totnes Chamber of Commerce. However, a recent safety inspection of the rigging points revealed that some points need to be repaired before they can be used to support electric cabling. As well as the high cost of making these essential repairs, this task is made more complicated by the restrictions on working on the listed buildings and the length of time it can take to gain these permissions.
As a result, the Town Council is working closely with the Chamber of Commerce to find a solution and make sure there is a festive display in the town this year. Councillors agreed to take over financial responsibility for lighting the town at Christmas, acknowledging that lights at Christmas have an important positive impact for local residents and for businesses.
Cllr Emily Price, Mayor of Totnes said: “Despite the financial and logistical challenges, Councillors all agreed that having Christmas lights to welcome local people and visitors is very important for the town. We’re committed to supporting all our businesses to thrive and making the town feel festive and fun is vital for this.”
As well as the issues regarding the essential repair of the rigging points, the majority of the festoon lighting that has been used in previous years has also reached the end of its life and needs to be replaced. As a result, the Town Council has reimagined the festive lighting up of the town in a way that does not use the unsafe fixing points.
Cllr Price explains: “The main change will be that there will no longer be strings of festoon lights crossing the street throughout the town. Instead, various focal points will be dressed with lights. This includes the trees on The Plains, the tree in the Shady Garden, the Eastgate Arch, the Civic Square and Civic Hall, and the trees in The Rotherfold. Plans for work on the fixing points at the entrance to the town are currently underway so the ‘Welcome to Totnes’ illuminated sign can be hung. Last year, businesses in the town made a wonderful effort with beautiful window displays and fairy lights and I really hope many will do the same this year so the whole town has a welcoming festive glow. Organising town lights at Christmas are not cheap and it will cost around £45,000 to set up this year, with savings in future as we would expect to be able to reuse the lights.”
In April, tenders were invited for lighting up Totnes for Christmas 2023. At the May Full Council meeting, Blanchere was awarded the contract.