No twinkle this year as Waterlooville Christmas lights called off

BUILDING SITE Waterlooville precinct won't have Christmas lights due to ongoing work and a lack of cash
BUILDING SITE Waterlooville precinct won't have Christmas lights due to ongoing work and a lack of cash
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NO CHRISTMAS lights will be put up in Waterlooville town centre this year – because of roadworks and a lack of cash.

Sparkly lights are normally installed in trees along the length of London Road.

But Waterlooville Business Association, which pays to have the lights put up, has said there is no money in the kitty this year.

Traders say their decision has also been influenced by the digging up of the precinct – part of a £700,000 scheme by Havant Borough Council to install new street furniture and new paving.

Association chairwoman Rosemary Wilson said that last year it cost £3,000 to put up the lights and get them safety checked.

Half of the cost was covered by the council, which normally match funds the amount raised by businesses.

But this year the business association did not have enough cash to pay for the installation.

Membership of the association – which costs £15 a year and usually pays for the Christmas lights – has fallen from more than 90 to just 50 in the last couple of years.

Mrs Wilson said: ‘It’s the first year we have had no lights. Last year it cost so much for what little we had.

‘We have just not got that money in the kitty this year unfortunately. The membership has dropped so much.

‘Most of the shopkeepers have no money to put towards it. If they are doing their own windows and things like that it’s up to them.’

Mrs Wilson said the business association was focusing the little cash it does have on the Waterlooville Music Festival in June.

The improvement works, which will take 40 weeks, started last month.

The council said construction had to be started now because of the terms and conditions of the scheme – which is being paid for by a government grant. It meant some of the money had to be spent by March 2012.

Trader Derrick Meakins, who runs The Baytree bookshop in Waterlooville, said: ‘It’s very disappointing when there will be no lights to advertise the festivities.

‘We all like to see them.’

Local councillor Paul Buckley said: ‘I think it’s a great pity we can’t do something.

‘Let’s hope it’s only a one-off and we find money to do it in future years.’

Council officials said they would have been prepared to match fund the amount raised by the business association this year to cover the lights.

To reduce disruption to Christmas shopping, the major digging and work next to shop entrances will be restricted from December 2.

The work will also stop after December 16 for two weeks.