Christmas is cancelled in Leigh Park as council asks to remove charity tree display

AN EARLY Christmas display put up for charity has been cancelled after a council asked organisers to take it down over health and safety fears.

Saturday, 7th September 2019, 7:00 am
Updated Saturday, 7th September 2019, 10:36 am
(left to right) Darren McKenna, Charlie Lawrence, Addieson Lawrence (11), Millie-Mai Rose (7), Michelle Smith, Maila-Marie Rose (6), Marshall Henson (10) and Marc Maran Picture: Malcolm Wells (190829-6938)

Festive decorations appeared four months early as neighbours in Woodcot Crescent, Leigh Park, decked the halls to gather support for the PO9 Foodbank.

Flat resident Marc Maran was asked to remove the tree by Portsmouth City Council due to it being a fire hazard, and is now being asked to remove the decorations too.

Marc said: ‘Although I do a lot for my community and promote many local projects on my Facebook group, Foodbank PO9 is one of my favourite projects. It benefits many people in need.

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This Christmas tree display in Leigh Park was raising funds for the PO9 Foodbank, but the council has asked for it to be removed

‘The Christmas idea I came up with was to highlight how people struggle all year.

‘A lot of young people are disappointed the tree was taken down.

‘Sharps Copse School went back on Thursday and lots of children go past singing Christmas carols.’

In the last few weeks, two huge bags of food from the Christmas crate were collected by Darren Mckenna who runs the foodbank, meaning five families in the area have been helped by festive spirit.

(left to right) Charlie Lawrence, Michelle Smith, and Marc Maran Picture: Malcolm Wells (190829-6962)

Darren said: ‘I’m upset to know that community efforts can be undermined like this.

‘What the people of Leigh Park are prepared to do all year round to support our most vulnerable is a beautiful thing, when our own council can’t get on board we’re devalued and disrespected.’

Foodbank helper Michelle Smith said she was ‘horrified’ by the council’s decision to take the decorations down.

‘This has just put a downer on the whole community,’ said Michelle.

‘I want someone from the council to come and follow us for the day to see what we do.

‘They don’t understand the amount of people we feed who are Portsmouth City Council tenants.’

Portsmouth City Council was approached for comment, and The News understands it is council policy to keep foyers free from flammable materials and keep entryways clear.

Marc said: ‘I'm working together with Michelle and Darren to get permission to plant a real tree in the garden.

‘My display remains up and the collection point will now be permanent all year round.’

Cllr Darren Sanders, Portsmouth City Council’s cabinet member for housing, said ‘it’s a great piece of community spirit’ and vows to place an article in the council magazine.