Christmas trees are being cut down to size in two South Tyneside villages – because of ‘elf’ and safety rules.
Council bosses have deemed the eight-metre festive firs in Cleadon and East Boldon villages are too close to overhead power lines – and need a metre chopping off.
After a review was carried out in conjunction with Balfour Beatty, which installs the borough’s Christmas decorations, it was ruled it would be unsafe for workers to ‘plant’ the trees by using a crane – as they would be very close to Northern Power Grid’s cables which supply electricity to shops and homes nearby.
A letter from the local authority was sent out to councillors informing them of the decision.
It read: “We believe that to ensure we do not have a safety-related incident on site, where, during tree installation and removal, the crane wagon boom and lifting equipment comes into contact with the energised supply cables, we should reduce the height of these two trees as a matter of public and worker safety.”
However, Cleadon and East Boldon conservative councillor Jeff Milburn is furious with the decision.
I don’t know any other area which has had to have a metre of their Christmas trees lopped off for health and safety nonsense, it’s utter madness.Coun Jeff Milburn
Coun Milburn said: “First we have to fight to get actual Christmas trees put in place in our villages, after years of them sticking lights in normal trees and expecting us just to be happy.
“Then last year we had to beg for them to straighten our trees up because they were so wonky and now this?
“I don’t know any other area which has had to have a metre of their Christmas trees lopped off for health and safety nonsense, it’s utter madness.”
The letter also suggests that for next year more suitable locations could be sought to place the bigger eight-metre trees.
Coun Milburn added: “You have the trees at the heart of the village, so everyone can enjoy them, and we have our carol services there.
“What’s the point of sticking the trees in some random street where not everyone is going to see? It will be pointless.
“Cleadon is an 800 year-old village and they’re ruining our Christmas traditions.”
A spokesman for South Tyneside council said: “We always take great pride in the appearance of South Tyneside and work extremely hard to create stunning Christmas tree and lighting displays for people to enjoy over the festive season. We make every effort to ensure there are festival displays across the borough and as part of this year’s programme we are installing 20 trees of varying size across our towns and villages.
“Following a borough-wide risk assessment of festive Christmas tree locations, we have taken the decision to install reduced height Christmas trees in Cleadon and East Boldon.
“This is to ensure that South Tyneside Council complies with the relevant Health and Safety Executive guidelines regarding the potential hazards associated with working in close proximity of overhead power cables.
“The installation and removal of the trees in these locations and using heavy lifting equipment poses a risk to the site operators, general public, neighbouring businesses and properties in the Cleadon and East Boldon areas.
“We hope that the people of Cleadon and East Boldon understand that the health and safety of our contractors’ operatives and the public is of paramount importance and we cannot put them at risk.”