A row has erupted after Derbyshire County Council refused to allow a road closure for Belper’s Christmas lights switch-on – a position the mayor describes as an ‘absolute joke’.
Belper Town Council applied to close all of King Street between 4pm and 10pm on Friday, November 27, for the switch-on event.
But this week the county council said it would not approve the closure because it would cause traffic disruption – and would only support the event if it was changed to a Sunday.
A spokesman for Belper Town Council said the event has taken place on a Friday since 2008 and has always had the support of the county council.
Mayor Dan Booth said: “The county council’s position is an absolute joke.
“I can’t understand why they would let the public down, let the children down, just for the sake of a few buses.”
He added: “The Friday switch-on is a tradition for the town. The shops stay open late and people go Christmas shopping afterwards.
“It’s an event which is loved by everybody, is a big boost for business in Belper and raises a lot of money for charity.
“We will continue to try and come to an agreement with the county council. But if we can’t, the event will have to be scaled back which will be so disappointing for the town.”
A county council spokesman said they can only support road closure applications where it thinks they are safe and appropriate.
They said: “Significant disruption was experienced last year when the event was held on a Friday. It caused congestion on the roads and disrupted bus services resulting in a number of complaints.
“If these roads were closed again on a Friday it would mean many buses having to stop on the nearby A6 during rush hour. This would have a significant impact on traffic queues [and] would cause major congestion...
“We could support the closure if the day of the event was changed, or if Campbell Street and the part of King Street between Campbell Street and the A6 was kept open.”
Belper residents vented their frustration at the refusal on social media.
Cath Sheldon said: “This is disgusting. Friday night Christmas lights switch on is a tradition in Belper, everyone comes to the town to look around the shops and stalls. Derbyshire county council need to stop being so stupid.”
Chris Smith said: “Get a grip county council, just close the road and bring people to the area.”
Lita Cheetham said: “Ridiculous. It’s been a tradition for years in Belper. I don’t understand why it’s suddenly a problem.”
Lauren Bounds said: “Silly decision. I vote for Friday traditional Christmas lights.”
Margot Bulloch said: “Miserable lot. If it has been acceptable in the past, why not now?”
Jim Bull said: “The wife and I helped with the switch on last year and it was packed in the street. A great atmosphere.
I don’t remember any reports of traffic chaos.”