A POPULAR fireworks display that was called off after attendance soared to an unprecedented level could return this year as a ticketed event.

Great Aycliffe Town Council (GATC) was forced to cancel its annual display in Newton Aycliffe last year, as officers were worried its growing popularity would make it difficult to manage safely.

This week (Wednesday, February 26), the council’s recreation committee discussed a proposal to resurrect the free fireworks display as a ticket-only event at Oakleaf Sports Complex.

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Leisure manager Judith Thexton also outlined plans to fence off access routes to the venue, increase security at authorised entrance points and publicise the “ticket-only” nature of the display in the press and on signs on the night.

Council leader, Councillor Bob Fleming, praised the report and said it should be sent to the Safety Advisory Group (SAG) for approval as soon as possible.

“I think the officers have addressed all of the problems that caused us to cancel our fireworks display last year,” he added.

Yet despite the positive outlook this year, there are fears the cost of fulfilling the additional health and safety requirements could continue to rise and jeopardise the display’s long term future.

Last August, the decision to cancel the event caused a public outcry, with hundreds of people joining a campaign group on Facebook called “Save our firework display at Newton Aycliffe.”

It followed a record turnout in 2012, when 15,000 people, three times the usual number, attended the spectacle.

The surge was attributed to the loss of organised events in Darlington and Bishop Auckland.

This year, a budget of £15,000 has been set aside for the event –around £4,000 more than the final cost in 2012.

After the meeting, Councillor John Clare posted a warning on the campaign group’s Facebook page: “We can afford this for the moment but - given the Government's unending downward pressure on council finances - no one can say how long the town council will be able to continue funding a fireworks display at maybe double the cost.”

Ken Robson, chairman of the campaign group, said he would carry on fighting to ensure the fireworks continue for years to come.

He described the proposals as a step in the right direction, adding: “It is super news about this year’s fireworks. All credit to council staff and councillors for their endeavours.”