A CAMPAIGNER has reissued her plea to get Dorchester looking more festive by switching Christmas lights on earlier in the day.

Margaret Morrissey spearheaded the Decorate Dorchester campaign when the county town hit national headlines for its lack of lights.

But following a successful fundraising drive to purchase new lights, Mrs Morrissey said that nine years on the town is ‘dark and dreary’ because they are not being switched on until dusk.

She said: “I went into town at 2pm, when the sun was down, and it was cold, damp and pretty miserable.

“Other than a few trees or businesses that have taken the trouble to purchase lights, the town was dreary and dark.”

In 2003 Piers Morgan, then editor of the Daily Mirror, called Dorchester the ‘saddest town in the country’, publishing pictures of the town’s display.

When the new lights were purchased, they were switched on from noon to 11pm seven days a week during the Christmas period.

But since last year, lights in the town centre have been switched on at 4pm. Mrs Morrissey added: “To generate shoppers before Christmas, the town needs some festive spirit, light and joy.

“If we cannot afford to put the lights on while shops are open next year, I suggest, as one who helped to buy them, that we sell them and give the money to charity.”

Phil Gordon, of the Dorchester Business Improvement District (BID), agreed that turning the lights on earlier could attract more shoppers.

He said: “I think it is a good idea, but I know when we looked into this issue last year that the lights are on a timer.

“But perhaps changes could be made.”

Town clerk Dennis Holmes confirmed that Dorchester Town Council is responsible for switching on the lights.

The lights on the Christmas tree in Cornhill, those at Top o’ Town and those in Weymouth Avenue are turned on constantly, he said.

The remaining lights are on a timer and are switched on at 4pm.

He said: “If the lights came on earlier, you would notice them, but only on a dull day.

“When it is bright and sunny, as it has been several times this week, nobody notices if the lights are on or off.”

Mr Holmes added that cost is a consideration.

“If we turn the lights on for longer, it will cost more because of the extra electricity that is being used.

“It would also involve paying somebody to adjust the timers.”

The town council has not been approached by any members of the public with concerns about the lights, he added.