Purpose of Report
To update the committee on the revised plans for the Christmas lights across both town centres 2021 and to seek agreement to make improvements to the displays.
Following a decision by both chambers of trade not to continue with the provision of Christmas lights for either Burnham or Highbridge, the council opened a competitive tender process that resulted in the council awarding a £20k p.a. 3-year contract to Event Power Engineering (‘the contractor’) for provision and installation of Christmas lights display across both towns, 2020-2022 (inclusive).
The extent of the displays had been approved as recommended by the Christmas Light Sub-Committee.
There was expected that some repair work would be required to fittings, for which £5000 had been put in EMR. The contractor replaced timers and carried out small repairs without cost to the council, which leaves this reserve available.
The committee has available £7220 to make any improvements to the scheme (see below).
Following the first year of the contract, a debrief meeting was held on 17/02/21 between the lights company, town council officers, the council chairman and chairman of town improvements.
NB. Prior to the 2020 lights installations, the office wrote to all properties within the contractor’s lights plan to seek necessary permissions. Lights were only installed on properties with written agreement of the person identifying as the property owner. The process will be repeated for 2021.
Lights display in Highbridge 2020:
Many of the pre-existing timers and connections were in very poor condition. It was evident that the Christmas lights infrastructure had not been maintained or updated, 2 subsequently failing during the display period. Where access inside properties was possible, the lights contractor replaced those timers and made small repairs.
The contractor faced a number of difficulties with reliance on the private power supplies at properties where permission had been granted. In the main, businesses on Market Street were very helpful and once contact was made, repairs were able to be carried out.
At some properties with faulty or missing internal supplies, the contractor was unable to gain access to carry out repairs despite having made arrangements for access with property owners; some of these lights were re-sited. There were instances where the occupants turned off the power after installation and although we were able to contact some of those sites, not all were contactable.
The display on Church Street was disappointing and some of mounted trees remained unlit. This street has predominantly residential properties, which presented a particular challenge in terms of access and reliance on domestic power supplies.
The display on trees at Jubilee Gardens (the clock at the roundabout) looked attractive and was well received.
The community hall, once the old timer had been replaced, also attracted positive comments. The display on the large Christmas tree adjacent to the hall was a significant improvement over previous years in that the colourful lights were evenly dispersed over the entire tree.
The nature of the timers used and pandemic closed premises meant the switch-on could not coincide with published time.
Revised plans for Highbridge 2021
In light of the good cooperation shown by key businesses on Market Street, we are hopeful that access to the private power supplies at this location will be easier outside of the pandemic.
However, the contractor has developed & tested a new product that will reduce the need for internal access to a property to a single visit. This cost will be subsumed by the contractor and not passed to the council.
This new product will also mean that the lights switch-on will be controlled remotely with a genuine button press!
The design for Market Street will expand at no cost to the council to include more lights on the drainage board property and on 2 additional properties in Market Street, subject to permissions from property owners.
Without additional cost, but subject to access, the contractor will seek to spread out the display on Jubilee Gardens to improve the view from the southern approach to the roundabout. Should the council want to keep the same density of lighting at 3 Jubilee Gardens, the contractor can potentially, subject to access, increase the display at this site by 50% at a cost of £700pa.
Additionally, inclusion of the YMCA building in the lighting scheme would offer significant impact. Subject to permission, icicles can be installed on the building (as on Pier Street/HB Community Hall) at a cost of £650 pa.
In order to provide a uniform display and overcome the difficulties in decorating residential properties on Church Street, permission is currently being sought from the highways lighting dept. to permit the installation of power connections on the 12 street lighting columns. If approved, we anticipate a cost of £250 per column if our contractor undertakes the work. If SCC insists on its own contractor, we have yet to receive costs.
Mounting brackets to light columns is unlikely to received SCC permission, plus it would incur more extensive costs from a mandatory structural engineer’s report. In hope of avoiding this complication, permission is being sought to instead decorate the columns with lighting boas, similar, but slightly longer than those permitted and used in Burnham.
If we are successful in being granted permission by Highways, the contractor is able to exchange the wall mounted trees for lighting boas at an additional cost of £950 pa.
Cllr Facey will meet with the contractor to assist with the 2021 planning, visiting properties and making personal contacts.
The office and councillors have received some positive feedback and the display was more extensive than installed in previous years. The lights on the apex of buildings at Pier street were very popular, as were the use of boas on street lights.
Some timers on private properties failed and lights did not come on, although the failure rate was lower than in previous years. Again, this reflects the lack of maintenance to the lights infrastructure and should be overcome with installations of the new control system.
Due to the nature of the timers used and the pandemic effect of closed premises, the switch-on did not coincide with the published time and the lights could not come on together. This will also be overcome in 2021 with the new remote system permitting a genuine button press and not relying on the coordination of volunteers as used in previous years.
The lights on the Pier Street Christmas tree were vandalised twice. The CCTV operators and Police were asked to review the camera footage, but stated they were unable to identify the offenders. The contractor made repairs without cost to the council.
Some businesses on Victoria Street initially refused to permit the overhead festoon (cross street lights) to be installed on their properties, however the contractor was able to reach an agreement with those businesses that avoided the use of their private power supplies.
The festoon was strung at a minimum of 5.8 metres above the carriageway, which is a lawful height that would not interfere with traffic. We will liaise with the carnival club to check maximum height of floats. However, the contractor has agreed that, if required, the 2021 festoon can be installed once carnival is over.
Second large Christmas tree
There are currently no public open spaces at the north end of the town to site a large Christmas tree. A second public tree was sited outside the Princess in 2020, but this location was not ideal and the tree sustained some vandalism.
All 3 trees were installed and decorated within the contract value, but supplied separately at a total cost of £790 delivered.
We expect the public health position to permit the Princess theatre to be open and active over the 2021 Christmas period. As an attractive TC owned public building it is preferable to decorate it.
At a cost of £480, the contractor can install a single run of icicles across the front of the building to match those used in Pier Street and on the community centre in Highbridge. Or it can provide 2 runs (second row just below the first floor windows) for an additional total £880.
As an alternative to icicle lights, and subject to permissions/security, we can use projectors sited across the street on the SS&L to shine images directly on the building. These can have fixed images for £400 each or rotating images for £500 each. The contractor recommends that 2 projectors would be needed.
A further alternative possibility is the use of colour wash, where high-powered units are installed to flood light onto the building from the site of the SS&L. The hire price for these units is £500 each for the season and two would be required.
It is worth noting that use of the SS&L is entirely dependent on SCC’s decision as to the future of the building.
The committee is asked to agree the switch-on dates for both displays so that we can plan installation dates. For information, the last 2 Saturdays in November fall on 20th and 27th.
£0 New remote control connections (costs to be subsumed by contractor)
£3000 (A) Power connections on HB Church St lighting columns
£700 (B) price increase to contract to add more tree lights at Jubilee Gdns
£650 (C) Price increase to contract to extend display to light YMCA
£950 (D) Price increase to contract – exchange 4ft trees for street light boas
£480-880 (E) Icicles to the Princess (option of 1 or 2 rows)
£800-1000 (F) Projections onto Princess (options as to style)
Costed below for comparison only – other options are available. (increase in contract value)
£6,180 Total costs A+B+C+D+E (at max) (£5,780 min) (+£3180 OR £2,780)
£6,300 Total costs A+B+C+D+F (at max) (£6,100 min) (+£3300 OR £3100)
£5,480 Total costs A+C+D+E (at max) (£5,080 min) (+£2480 OR £2080)
£5,600 Total costs A+C+D+F (at max) (£5,400 min) (+£2600 OR £2400)
£2220 available annual budget for Christmas trees & lighting (after purchase of 2 delivered trees @ total £580)
£5000 available in 20/21 EMR Christmas lights
£2500 For info only: uncommitted in EMR Events (as at 12/03/21).
£5000 available in 21/22 Events budget, which could potentially provide agreed funding for switch-on events in both towns
- To approve payment from the identified budget for the infrastructure costs to enable lighting columns in Church Street, Highbridge, to host Christmas light installations (subject to permissions).
- To approve that the agreed expenditure (to be identified at meeting) is made from the committee budgets to increase the contract value enabling a more extensive display in Highbridge and in Burnham (Princess Theatre) (subject to permissions).
- For clarity, the meeting is asked to resolve a policy position that the provision of a Christmas lighting display is to set a festive street scene for the benefit of residents, traders and visitors and to attract people into the town centres. The council welcomes and is grateful for the help of local property owners, but the council is unable to guarantee to supply a Christmas light to any specific business.
Report author: Sam Winter, Town Clerk
Report Date: 15th March 2021