A representative of a number of Enniskillen businesses has said the local council has ‘lost the faith of the people in the street’ with its approach to Christmas events in the town.
Earlier this month Fermanagh and Omagh District Council confirmed to Belfast Live that it would not be hosting the traditional lights switch on events in Omagh and Enniskillen this year.
Instead, the council has said it will be running a series of ‘seasonal Saturdays’, which it says received positive feedback from families and businesses last year.
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A new Christmas tree in the town worth £19,000 has been funded by Enniskillen BID and installed by the local council.
The tree, which has been brought in from France, contains a gap in the middle for town centre visitors to walk through. However a fence has been erected around the tree, which the local authority says is a temporary health and safety measure.
Noelle McAloon from Enniskillen BID says the group, which represents a number of businesses in the Co Fermanagh town, has organised an event on Thursday 1 December to welcome the Christmas season in the absence of a traditional lights switch-on.
“I was in town yesterday watching the tree go up with great excitement, and people were aware that it was Enniskillen BID who had organised the tree,” Noelle told Belfast Live.
“We have delivered a high-spec tree with all the safety specifications. There doesn't need to be a fence around the tree and I've been assured it's only a temporary measure.”
“There were a lot of people saying fair play and that they felt that the council had lost the faith of the people on the street.
"We are in what should be a really busy period for the town centre and for us to be sitting in the county town with not even a Christmas light up is worrying.”
"We love our town and it’s important that the public have positive experiences in town. We felt we had to mark the first night of the Christmas lights and look forward to having a fun evening in town on Thursday 1 December.
"It’s not the normal switch-on event but it will allow people to enjoy the lights and start the festive season in Enniskillen."
Noelle added that people in the local area are ‘disgruntled’ by how the council has handled its festive programme, particularly after the late notice cancellation of the Halloween fireworks display this year.
“It has to be said that people on the street are very disgruntled about this,” she said.
“The public are disappointed and the businesses are in shock that there’s no event which brings people to the town and leads to them spending money.
“You look at the example of The Copper Tap in Omagh and that’s another example of businesses having to come out and do it themselves.
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“I know each council operates independently but I feel as if Omagh and Enniskillen are very left behind when you have neighbouring council areas moving forward with their own events.”
In a statement, Fermanagh and Omagh District Council said: “Temporary fencing was erected around the Enniskillen BID Christmas tree following its installation in The Diamond and is expected to remain in place until 01 December as a health, safety and security measure. Council will continue to review health and safety arrangements throughout the festive period.
“The arrangements for this year's Christmas Lights are similar to last year's events which received considerable positive feedback from the business community, residents and visitors to the District.
“The Council is coordinating three Seasonal Saturdays on 03, 10 and 17 December 2022 in Enniskillen and Omagh. These will include festive music and entertainment from 12.30pm and a visit by Santa on 03 December 2022 in both towns.
“These events were enjoyed by all ages last year, and in particular families. They also encouraged people to come into Enniskillen and Omagh and support local businesses.”
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