‘There is a serious risk we will miss out’ - shops criticise Christmas switch-on plans as celebrations switch location

Phil Goodfellow of Northern Threads
Phil Goodfellow of Northern Threads

Worried traders have warned South Tyneside’s big Christmas lights switch-on plans could be no cause for celebration.

They fear being left out of pocket after it was confirmed South Shields’ official light-up will again be at the market place – around 250 yards from their businesses.

Two Christmas trees outside South Shields Town Hall in 2015

Two Christmas trees outside South Shields Town Hall in 2015

The event – which last year attracted an estimated 6,000 people – has traditionally been on their doorsteps at the junction of King Street and Ocean Road.

But two years ago it moved close to The Word library – and council chiefs insist it will be there again this year.

Retailers say what was previously a significant once-a-year boost to business, could instead see them lose out.

Phil Goodfellow, 52, co-owner of menswear store Northern Threads, which has two outlets close to the King Street and Ocean Road junction, said: “There is a serious risk we will miss out. The council has taken this switch-on away from where the shops are and put it in no man’s land at the market place.

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“It has done so without any consultation, nobody told us a thing about it until it was already confirmed.

“The lights used to bring a lot of people right outside our door and our footfall increased.”

Kieran Bates, manager of the Ship and Royal pub, agreed, adding: “Moving the switch-on to the market place really killed us, as it did for trade around this junction. It really knocked us because it was right outside out door.”

South Tyneside Council also confirmed there would be just one Christmas tree again this year outside South Shields Town Hall.

Traditionally there was one either side of the building’s front door.

A tree traditionally sighted at Ocean Road and King Street, will again be placed at the market place.

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A spokeswoman blamed unprecedented ongoing Government funding cuts for the ‘significant’ reduction in spend on Christmas lights and trees in recent years.

She said: “Despite this, we remain committed to creating impressive displays across our three town centres within the limited resources we have. These displays create a wonderful festive atmosphere for local residents and help to draw in more visitors.

“Last year’s switch on event in South Shields town centre attracted around 6,000 people. Due to the event’s growing popularity, the Christmas tree was relocated from the junction of Ocean Road and King Street to the open civic space at the market place in 2016.

“This was necessary in order to accommodate the spectator numbers that the event was attracting.