CamdenNewJournal

The independent London newspaper

Christmas lights taken down in Primrose Hill after three days amid ‘elf and safety row

Lights organised by Santa Jonny Bucknell are branded a 'death trap' by council, days after model Jo Wood turned them on

29 November, 2018 — By Tom Foot

CHRISTMAS came to Primrose Hill for just a matter of days as festive lights were switched on by former model Jo Wood in front of an excited crowd on Sunday – and then promptly taken down by the council yesterday (Wednesday) in a health and safety row.

At the centre of the bizarre chain of events was former councillor Jonny Bucknell, who had organised the Christmas lights on the lampposts in and around Regent’s Park Road.

He dressed up in a big red suit on Sunday to play Santa Claus at the annual Primrose Hill Christmas Fair.

But yesterday he told the New Journal that he was on the phone to us, “standing in a dark street, stunned”, with his lights torn down and impounded.

Council workers had removed them in cherry pickers and when asked why Labour environment chief Councillor Adam Harrison described them as “shoddily fixed-up” and “frankly a death trap”. Cables were in reach of the public, including young children, he added.

The removal of the lights contrasts with the joy that filled the streets over the weekend when thousands got in the Christmas spirit at the festival with a portable ice rink for children, sponsored by estate agents Savills, and music acts getting everybody in the mood for next month’s celebrations.

A council photos of the way the wires were rigged before they came down

Mr Bucknell, the son of TV’s first DIY expert Barry Bucknell, said: “By all means switch them off if there’s an electrical fault, we’ll get it rectified, but to take them away? Taking them off the blooming lampposts, that’s the point of no return. I am stunned, completely stunned. I am standing on a dark street looking out on a complete lack of Christmas lights that we have put a whole load of work into all year. They’re in some pound somewhere, I’m going to have to pay to pick them up.”

He added: “The ridiculous part is we have been working closely with Camden Events on this. I wrote to the council in January about the condition of the lights and they said they would pass it on to the relevant authorities and get back to me, but they didn’t. There is so much paperwork. It’s a real shame.”

Funding for this year’s festive display comes from the annual Primrose Hill Christmas fair and is managed by the Primrose Hill Business Association, which Mr Bucknell is trying to register as a charity. The lights came on without any problems after Sunday’s countdown.

Jonny Bucknell as Santa at Sunday’s festival with Jo Wood, right

Mr Bucknell, as Santa, had warmed up the crowd with some jokes that would he at home in a Christmas cracker, including: “What do you call an old snowman? A puddle.”

Yesterday (Wednesday), Primrose Hill community activist Phil Cowan, who spotted the lights being taken down, said: “The thing that I find astonishing about this yearly fair is that it is unique among similar events in north London by being distinguished in its lack of raising funds for charity.” The council said inspectors had found “electrical terminations in a dangerous condition”, no “load tests” and flex “strung across the carriageway”. The cables were potentially in the reach of young children.

Adam Harrison

Cllr Harrison said action had to be taken: “Electrical currents were jumping between these shoddily fixed-up lights, which were frankly a death trap for our residents,” he said. “We cannot allow people to install dangerous electrics; all such installations need proper testing and permission. We will work with responsible members of the community to ensure decorations which are safe are up soon.”

He added: “Camden Council puts resident safety at the heart of what we do. This applies as much to our streets as to the action we take to look after residents in dangerous and inadequate housing.”

The council said it was hoping to put up some replacement decorations before Christmas.

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