A SWITCH-ON of Christmas Trees and town centre lights will take place at an undisclosed time in Ballymena this year to ensure crowds do not gather due to the covid pandemic, councillors at a meeting in the town have been told.
Mayor, Councillor Peter Johnston, said: “Due to public health concerns, it will not be possible to deliver the traditional Christmas Lights Switch-on events in their normal format this year which draw large crowds to our town centres and villages.”
Mid and East Antrim Borough Council has agreed to ‘stand down’ switch-on events.
The Mayor said “virtual” and “alternative” activities are being looked at.
Councillor Johnston said the Council would continue to support town centre marketing activity.
A Council report said: ‘There can be no pre-announced countdown and switch on of the lights due to the likelihood of crowds gathering and so the lights will come on using the usual automatic time settings’.
The report added: ‘It is recommended Council work on a range of alternative activities and events that can be delivered in line with the current Executive and public health guidance to ensure the safety of our citizens.
‘As Council has done successfully to date, it is recommended delivering an extensive virtual-led progamme for Christmas 2020 which will be aimed at all our citizens throughout the Borough’.
Council Chief Executive Anne Donaghy told the meeting they are “discouraging” any public gathering for switch-ons.
She said “the lights will be switched on probably early in the day and they will just appear on at a certain time”.
The Council is also advising community groups not to have public switch-on events in their areas.
However, the Council is encouraging the community to shop local this Christmas and support shops and there will be a “dedicated marketing campaign rolled out,” the report says.
Bannside TUV councillor Timothy Gaston said it was important the Council do as much as they can to promote town centres in the run up to Christmas.
He said the recent lockdown had led to some people getting into the “mindset” of buying goods over the internet and it was important that resources are devoted to ensuring people are encouraged to come into town centres.