THE ANNUAL Christmas lights switch-on extravaganza in Weymouth has been axed and the Christmas Day harbour swim is in doubt following latest government regulations amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The festive Christmas light switch-on event - which usually takes place outside Debenhams and includes live performances, a procession and nativity play - attracts hundreds of people each year.

But organisers have announced there will be no festivities this year to officially turn on the town's light displays due to concerns about crowds posing a health risk during the pandemic.

Other events that have been cancelled include the Victorian Fayre at Swannery Lake, and the Christmas market in Hope Square, while the Lions Club said they were currently in discussions over whether they can still go ahead with the Christmas Day harbour swim.

However Weymouth BID is determined to find a way to create a festive atmosphere and revealed talks were taking place about the possibility of light projections at four locations around the town, as well as a reindeer trail and festive shop window display project.

Weymouth Town Council said it will still be putting up Christmas lighting throughout the town as well as a Christmas tree in the town centre for residents to enjoy.

Claudia Webb, chief operations officer at Weymouth BID, wants to make sure that Christmas is still a magical time in Weymouth.

"We're speaking to the town council about sharing the costs of a 'projection mapping' (light show) which would be a good way to lead people around town", she said.

"We're also planning a reindeer trail as well as a 'Window Wanderland' which involves decorating shop windows.

"We're trying our best but it's really hard to get something that can definitely go ahead. Unfortunately the traditional light switch-on event is just a licence for crowds to get together in one place so it cannot go ahead. There might be a virtual switch on if the council wants to do that."

The BID is also hoping to put Christmas trees on buildings in the town centre.

"We want to improve the festive look of the town even if we can't hold an event," Ms Webb added.

"Obviously we're all disappointed but nobody wants to be responsible for giving someone covid - the rest of the country is going along the same lines.

"We want to give a Christmas feel to the town and create a nice atmosphere to encourage people to visit responsibly - even if it's not for an event - and we're looking to hold an 'Eat Out to Help Out' scheme in January and February to support the hospitality trade.

"It's all so frustrating. I feel bad for families but am more worried about businesses and their livelihoods in the run up to Christmas."

A spokesman for Weymouth Town Council said: "The Christmas lights switch on has for many years has been a collaborative event with the Weymouth BID. Due to the coronavirus restrictions, this year’s Christmas lights switch on will not incorporate some of the traditional features such as live music and entertainment, a procession, and nativity performance.

"However, the Town Council will still be putting up Christmas lighting throughout the town and the tree in the town centre for residents to enjoy. This year will also include new lighting installations on the South Harbourside (Trinity Road)."

The Echo understands that discussions are under way about the possibility of staging a Christmas event at Nothe Fort, and this year's Christmas Pantomime at Weymouth Pavilion is still currently going ahead as planned.