Christmas celebrations felled by tree safety fear

10:25am Tuesday 4th December 2012

By Gavin Havery

A CHRISTMAS tree which cost a council £10,000 was dismantled immediately after the big switchon over fears someone could be electrocuted.

The impressive winter frosteffect tree was to be the centre of the yuletide celebrations in Front Street, Stanley, County Durham, but had to be taken down straight after the launch event on Saturday evening.

Safety concerns about the wiring of the tree were raised by Durham County Council, which said it did not comply with regulations.

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The fear was that if anyone got near to the tree and interfered with the electrics they could receive a high voltage electric shock that could kill them.

Durham County Councillor Carl Marshall, who helped organise the festival, said: “If anyone was to open up a junction box, or was messing about with it, there was a good risk that they would not just get a little shock.

“It would have been a fatality.

“I am disappointed because it was a great spectacle for Front Street. It is a total joke.”

The tree was surrounded by safety barriers and security guards to make sure no one could get close to it, but then dismantled so the wiring could be examined.

The tree was paid for by Stanley Town Council and erected by Stanley Events, which organised the festival. It was part of a £15,000 programme of activities paid for the council and delivered by the non-profit organisation.

Coun Marshall said the town council asked for the tree to be included in the switch-on, which featured Emmerdale actor Ross Adams, and will be invoiced for the cost of assembling and dismantling the feature, which is believed to be about £2,000.

Councillor Peter McLaughlin, chairman of the town council, said the tree would be back on display once it was made safe.

Coun McLaughlin said “We have been in touch with the manufacturer and they are going to change what has to be done.”

Stanley also has a real Christmas tree, provided every year by Durham County Council .

John Reed, head of technical services at Durham County Council, said: “The tree purchased by Stanley Town Council was not safe for use in an unsupervised outdoor public display.

“Safety requirements specify a maximum voltage for such electrical equipment of 24 volts.

“In this case the tree had electrics which ran at 240 volts – ten times the safe level.”


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