A MARKET town's popular Christmas lights display is under threat after checks revealed most of its motifs did not meet safety standards.

The checks carried out on Barnard Castle's Christmas lights display by Durham County Council revealed that only 13 of the 51 motifs met health and safety guidelines.

Now the town council, which organises the display, has to urgently find £2,000 to purchase an extra 12 motifs for a limited display in the town centre.

The town mayor, Councillor John Yarker, who chairs the Christmas festival committee, said: "It was heartbreaking when we found out.

"I've spent hours working on the lights but, when I saw that safety test, I wouldn't even risk it."

Many of the motifs are several years old and have been damaged by weather and vehicle strikes. On some, the insulation has worn so thin that the frames stood the risk of becoming live.

This latest news will come as a blow to the council, which has already had to overcome several obstacles this year as it prepares for the Christmas season.

Last month, the council announced financial constraints and faulty equipment meant it had to concentrate the lights display in the town centre.

The council has also had to approve an extra £2,600 from its contingencies fund for new timer switches and an electrical transformer for the Christmas tree and has had to repair the Market Cross lights, which were damaged by gales last year.

Coun Yarker said a dozen new motifs were needed as it would not be worthwhile only installing the 13 remaining.

He has called an extraordinary meeting of the council for authorisation to purchase the lights from the council reserves.

He warned that the council would need to spend money over the next few years to replace the old stock, but he has made a three-year plan which would not only see lights in the town centre, but also in Galgate, Newgate and The Bank.

Coun Yarker said: "It's been a bit of a disaster this year, but I'm confident the council will do the right thing on Wednesday.

"The lights are perhaps the main thing the council does for the town."