IT might still be ten weeks away, but there was plenty of festive cheer last night when councillors confirmed a town’s Christmas tradition had been saved.

Residents of Newton Aycliffe feared Christmas Eve would lose its magic if Santa was stopped from touring the town to hand sweets to children from the back of a flatbed lorry– as he has done since the 1960s.

Great Aycliffe Town Council, which organises the event, faced a dilemma after it emerged the event would breach the Road Traffic Act– leaving them open to prosecution and voiding their insurance if there was an accident.

Last night, residents wearing Santa hats turned out in force to hear the council’s recreation committee agree to keep the tradition alive in its current format.

Members had been expected to consider various ways of changing the event so it could comply with legislation.

One option was to put Santa inside the cab and have about 60 stops where he could get out to see children.

But talk of any change sparked outcry in the town and on social media as generations of families shared their memories and desire for it to stay the same.


Council leader Bob Fleming told the public gallery that the Santa Tours will continue, as is, following the intervention of County Durham’s most senior police officer– news it had already shared online hours before the meeting.

He said Chief Constable Mike Barton had reassured the authority that Father Christmas will be allowed to stand to give out sweets when the van travels at very low speeds, as long as he sits in the cab with a seatbelt on when it goes above walking pace. This had also satisfied insurers.

Councillor Fleming said: “

The public was given 20 minutes to comment on the issue before councillors voted unanimously to stick with the original plan.

Before the meeting, Mr Barton told The Northern Echo: “Christmas is not a time for “elf” and safety red tape– we just need to apply a bit of discretion and a dose of common sense.

“It would be a great pity if a one-off festive tradition and the fun was diminished through a narrow and misguided interpretation of traffic law.

“If the reindeer go at 30mph then Santa needs to be in the cab wearing his seatbelt, however if they are plodding along then he is fine to be on the back of the float.

“We are more than happy to help if it means the children will get to meet Santa again this year.”