HEALTH and safety bosses have ordered knitted bunting in a town on the Tour de France route to be taken down – as it was causing lampposts to lean.

The bunting, featuring yellow, green, white and polka dot jumpers to represent the winners’ jerseys in the race, had been hung in Masham, near Ripon, by Harrogate Borough Council following an appeal by the authority to decorate the district.

Over six months, hundreds of schoolchildren, women’s institutes, craft groups and knitters from as far afield as Australia and the Arctic Circle created 23,453 jumpers for the display.

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A month after the bunting was hung in the town’s Market Place, and less than three weeks before 20,000 visitors are expected to visit Masham to see the race, residents and traders were stunned to see hundreds of the knitted jumpers being taken down by tree surgeons.

North Yorkshire County Council, which owns the lampposts, said it had asked the borough council to remove the bunting on safety grounds.

It is believed the weight of the bunting increased after rain, causing lampposts to lean.

Owner of Market Place sweet shop Bah Humbugs Lucy Scott Paul said: “I couldn’t believe it, I found it absolutely absurd that the council could send out their tree surgeons.”

Tessa Klemz, manager of Masham Community Office, said: “It’s health and safety gone crazy. Sheep do not fall over when they get wet, so why should lampposts?”

A borough council spokesman said an inspection of the lampposts had revealed damage to the base of one of them and called for ideas where the bunting could be displayed.

He said: “We are now looking to see what options are available to have them re-fixed in Masham, so that residents can actively support the imminent arrival of the Tour de France.”

A county council spokesman said: "Following Harrogate Borough Council’s erection of bunting in Masham we noticed that the lighting columns were leaning and in the interest of safety we asked the council to take them down as a matter of some urgency.

"We welcome bunting on buildings, or between trees, but it cannot be hung between lampposts for the safety reasons."

Mrs Klemz said aghast traders and residents salvaged the bunting and had hung it outside their shops and homes to ensure the volunteers’ work would still be seen, but that it was not as visible as it had been.

Masham Parish Council chairman and bed and breakfast owner Councillor Andrew Burrell said he was disappointed the bunting had been moved, but accepted it had been based on health and safety advice.

He said: “It still has the makings of being a very successful weekend with Masham being presented to a wider world.”

*Send us pictures of the celebrations as the Tour passes through your town or village. Text NORTHERN ECHO to 80360, email newsdesk@nne.co.uk or tweet us using the hashtag #echotdf