A LOCAL resident who led the campaign to restore Dorchester’s pride in its Christmas lights says the town is in danger of becoming a laughing stock again.

Margaret Morrissey said a rethink is needed on the use of the town’s lights next year so shoppers and traders can enjoy them in the day.

Dorchester’s Christmas lights made national headlines for the wrong reasons in 2003 when then editor of the Daily Mirror Piers Morgan published pictures of the town’s display and slated them as the worst in Britain.

That prompted Mrs Morrissey, from Poundbury, to found the Decorate Dorchester campaign, which saw a team of volunteers raise thousands of pounds to revamp the lights in the town.

However, eight years on she is now dismayed to see that the new lights are not being switched on till dusk, meaning many who visit the town over the festive season never get to see them.

She said: “Had Piers Morgan been around this Christmas he would have been more than justified for criticising us again.

“The lights we bought were duly put up and switched on on Cracker night.

“That was the last time many noticed them as, since then, the lights have only been switched on at dusk when all the streets are emptying.

“Most of December, whilst it has been sunny in the morning, by 2pm was dark and dreary and so were our streets.”

Mrs Morrissey said that when she drove through Dorchester on Christmas Eve at 4.30pm there was not a single light on yet when she left church at 12.45am on Christmas Day the town was floodlit despite there not being a person in sight.

She added: “The majority of local people and shopkeepers never see the Christmas lights.”

Mrs Morrissey said the town council, Dorchester and District Chamber of Commerce and the Dorchester Business Improvement District need to have a drastic rethink on their lights strategy.

She suggested that if cost was the major issue the lights not on main roads through the town can be switched off earlier as so few people use the pedestrian areas at night.

Mrs Morrissey said: “We worked hard to buy these lights. Let’s use them next year and switch them on so they can do their job.”

BID director open to idea

THE project director for the Dorchester BID says he is open to the idea of switching the town’s Christmas lights on earlier.

The BID has contributed £25,000 of funding to the Christmas lights over the last five years and Phil Gordon says that, while he believes switching on the lights when it is light would be a waste of money, he felt they could come on earlier as it is getting dark.

Mr Gordon said: “I can’t see much point in putting the Christmas lights on during the day when it’s bright as it will be wasting electricity and nobody would know they were on.

“I would agree with Margaret in that I don’t know what time they get switched off. But you probably don’t need them on until midnight so if they went out an hour earlier and came on an hour earlier it would cost the same, so that may be a good idea.”

Mr Gordon added that if the BID is not renewed for another five years when businesses in the town are balloted next year, then the funding it provides for the lights would have to be found elsewhere.