Safety at the heart of new festive light policy

08 March 2024
Festive lights

Though we are still very much in the early part of 2024, the thoughts of members of the Environment, Climate Emergency and Transport will be asked to turn towards Christmas when they meet next week to discuss a new Festive Display policy.

The report going to committee reiterates the importance and popularity of festive light displays within a number of neighbourhoods across Wirral and also highlights that in the majority of locations, these are organised by dedicated local volunteers.

The recommendation by officers is for committee members to reject any options to introduce either a full or partial charge to organisers of public festive light displays to cover the cost of energy that is incurred by Wirral Council in having them connected to the street lighting network.

Instead, the policy suggests the council should continue to bear the energy costs, but introduce a streamlined and consistent policy, clarifying the requirements for organisers to apply for a permit, to demonstrate that their displays will meet all legal safety requirements and commit to other requirements in order to be granted a permit.

The council has always had a duty to assess festive display applications to ensure they are fit for purpose, legal, and safe - not least because the displays are generally fixed to and powered from council-owned street lighting columns.

What the new policy sets out is to introduce a more formalised arrangement with organisers, which balances managing council resources and minimising the risk of prosecution due to an unsafe display with supporting organisers to manage displays in their community.

Specifically, it suggests introducing a submission deadline and cut off date for applications, limits to the scale of any display, a defined timeframe for installation and removal and a transparent process to address failure to comply with any aspect of the agreed policy. 

The new policy has been developed following a focus group session last year involving some organisers that the council already knows provide festive displays in their area. Their input from that focus group and feedback received since has helped to inform many of the key aspects of the new policy.

The council has also committed to offering pre-implementation workshops with all current and prospective festive display organisers ahead of the new policy being implemented for the next festive season.

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