Page last updated at 16:10 GMT, Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Fake Christmas tree 'vandalised'

Damage caused to the tree
A team is assessing the damage to the tree

A £14,000 fake Christmas tree which replaced a Dorset town centre's traditional fir tree due to health and safety concerns has been damaged.

The council believes parts of the 30ft (10m) cone in Poole, which is decorated with thousands of lights, were ripped off by vandals overnight on Monday.

But it comes as strong winds have also battered the south coast.

Shoppers have said the controversial tree, funded by local businesses, looks more like a "witch's hat".

Borough of Poole said the damage is currently being looked at by the tree's installation team.

Dorset Police said it believed several people could have climbed the tree and ripped off artificial layers. CCTV footage was being assessed.

But holes in the tree in Falkland Square have been noticed by residents after strong winds battered the seaside town.

Hidden speakers

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

But the council said that the artificial tree was safer, sturdier and cheaper in the long term, and that a Norwegian fir tree could topple over in strong winds.

The controversial tree, which is funded by business sponsorship, was chosen by the town centre management committee.

Shoppers have criticised the move.

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

The tree lit up at night
Two tonnes of ballast stop it from blowing over

The council said that shoppers had complained about the hoardings and guy ropes supporting the real tree in 2008.

Richard Randle-Jones, town centre manager for Poole, said: "Unfortunately, the Christmas tree has suffered some limited damage, possibly as a result of vandalism, and this has been reported to the police.

"We have asked the installers of the tree to assess the extent of this damage and estimate the cost of any repairs required."

A spokesman for Dorset Police said they were informed on Tuesday morning that the tree had been damaged.

He added: "It appears that someone, or several people, have climbed the tree and caused damage to the framework."

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Telegraph Health and safety Christmas tree vandalised - 25 hrs ago
Bournemouth Daily Echo Vandals target Poole's Christmas cone - 30 hrs ago

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