St Neots lights report has blank look

THE Hunts Post s quest to find out why the St Neots Christmas lights fell to the ground has drawn a blank…quite literally. An edited and largely blanked out version of the St Neots Town Council Christmas lights report was released to the newspaper on Tues

THE Hunts Post's quest to find out why the St Neots Christmas lights fell to the ground has drawn a blank...quite literally.

An edited and largely blanked out version of the St Neots Town Council Christmas lights report was released to the newspaper on Tuesday (February 17) after a request under the Freedom of Information Act (FOI).

The Hunts Post has been trying to discover exactly why a section of cross-street Christmas lights came crashing down in the High Street in November 2007.

The heavy metal structure and falling masonry hit a passing car, injured two women and narrowly missed a baby in a pushchair.

For more than a year the details have been kept secret by the town council, which says some information in the report would have an adverse affect on its, or another group involved in the scenario's, commercial interests.

Key information in the report sent to The Hunts Post has been blacked out, with the council citing Section 43 (2) of the FOI Act and the Data Protection Act 7 (5).

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However, the document, which was complied by Ted Bocking Associates, does reveal some details with regard to the installation of the lights.

It states that the contract-lease-agreement between the council and an unnamed contractor referred to the "supply, installation and take-down of Christmas lights".

It also says that it "later became apparent that the work of actually installing the fixings for the lights had been sub-contracted".

Furthermore, the report says that on November 27 - two days before the lights came down - concern was expressed that the building on the south side of the High Street, opposite Tchibo, was unable to take the additional weight of a suggested light display.

It also states that the lower fixing at the Norwich and Peterborough Building Society (where the lights fell down) 'had failed in that the brick into which it was fixed had been drawn some inches out from the building by the weight of the lighting'. The report suggests there is evidence of a similar problem occurring on November 11 when the lighting was being taken down because of a loose brick fixing.

It says in 'general terms' the council complied with its Health and Safety obligations, but in future it should "place greater and more specific importance to checking the competence of the designers and contractor and also those actually doing the work".

In terms of management of the Christmas lights project, the report adds: "For many years the erection of St Neots' Christmas lights has been undertaken with little or no problem. It was perhaps not unreasonable for the council to assume that, with the retention of a contractor of supposedly greater experience and with the allocation of a substantial financial recourse, this exercise would have progressed once again with no problem."

A report by the Health and Safety Executive into why the lights came crashing down is still ongoing.

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