Page last updated at 12:09 GMT, Friday, 27 November 2009

Council axes real Christmas tree

The Christmas tree outside the Dolphin Centre
Two tonnes of ballast stop the tree blowing over

A council has axed its traditional town centre fir Christmas tree and put up a £14,000 fake one instead.

Borough of Poole said that the tree was safer, sturdier and cheaper in the long run, and that a Norwegian fir tree could topple over in strong winds.

Shoppers told the BBC that the 33ft (10m) tree looked more like a "huge traffic cone" or "a witch's hat".

The tree was chosen by the town centre management board and is sponsored by local business.

A fir tree costs the Dorset council about £500 each year, plus up to £3,500 for specialists to decorate and maintain.

Two tonnes of ballast stops the artificial version from blowing over and speakers hidden inside play traditional Christmas carols.

One shopper, who emailed the BBC News website, said: "Normally we have a proper tree suitably decorated, which gave the whole town and especially the children something to brighten up the square and celebrate Christmas in the traditional way."

Health and safety rules mean a tree of that height must be secure from the risk of being blown down during high winds.

But people had complained about the hoardings and guy ropes supporting the real tree in 2008, the council said.

Richard Randle-Jones, Poole town centre manager, said the council had received two complaints about the fake tree.

The Christmas tree outside the Dolphin Centre
The council has received two complaints about the fake tree

"We've sought an alternative solution following a number of complaints from the public about last year's real Christmas tree", he added.

"The tree is covered with thousands of LED lights with a bright star on top and looks very special after dark."

Peter Scott, chief executive of the Dorset Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said in challenging economic times "profligate expenditure" is frowned upon.

He added: "Sensibly, the Borough of Poole is maintaining the tradition of erecting a Christmas tree, even a more modest one, and will have the opportunity of signalling bigger and better things to come when the economy picks-up."



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