Council considers switch to artificial Christmas trees for Ballymena, Carrick and Larne after criticism

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Mid and East Antrim Borough Council is proposing to spruce up its three main town centres during the festive season with new Christmas trees following criticism.

Councillors are considering switching to artificial versions at a cost of £105,000 for Larne, Carrickfergus and Ballymena.

The council’s Environment and Economy Committee which met at The Braid in Ballymena, on Tuesday evening, was told that ten metre “pre-dressed” trees would replace a traditional variety at Broadway in Larne, Market Place, in Carrick and outside The Braid in Ballymena.

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A report to the committee noted “poor quality produce” previously with incidents of “splitting, being unstable and tilting”.

Christmas tree at Broadway, Larne. Pic: Local Democracy Reporting ServiceChristmas tree at Broadway, Larne. Pic: Local Democracy Reporting Service
Christmas tree at Broadway, Larne. Pic: Local Democracy Reporting Service

“In Greenisland, in November 2023, a tree caused damage to vehicles resulting in complaints and civil claims from residents,” the report stated.

“Multiple complaints were also received in 2023 from the public and local traders regarding the Larne and Carrickfergus trees. These included poor quality, presentation and decoration.”

A council survey carried out after last year’s civic Christmas lights switch-on in Larne showed 59 per cent of respondents were “unhappy with the quality of the tree, the impact of decorations and lights”.

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In Carrickfergus, five per cent of 83 respondents were “unhappy”. The report indicated the Christmas tree in Ballymena is located “in the periphery of the town centre, away from the switch-on event”.

New Style

The report noted: “The new style of trees would create additional impact to the existing seasonal lighting offering and create a draw for locals and visitors to the towns at Christmas time, boosting footfall, increasing dwell time and positively impacting on business sales during this crucial shopping season.”

Councillors were advised the new trees would be purchased as part of the Department for Communities (DfC) ‘Revitalising Town Centres’ programme with 90 per cent of funding provided by the Department and ten per cent by the council.

Speaking at the meeting, Braid DUP Alderman William McCaughey said: “I think it is a fantastic idea. The cost of Christmas trees goes up but the quality seems to go down a little. It would be very nice to see these progressed.”

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Ald McCaughey asked about storage cost noting a “substantial expense” for storage of the borough’s Christmas lights. John McVeigh, head of capital works, replied: “We would look for a suitable council facility to minimise cost.”

Coast Road Ulster Unionist Ald Maureen Morrow commented: “I think it is a good idea to move forward with artificial trees. It is important that they are stored properly so that we do not have a lot of expense in repairs.”

Ald Morrow asked if they would be supplied to the borough’s villages and small towns. She was told this would not be the case. She went on to ask for an assurance that the lights being placed on Glenarm’s Christmas tree would be in working order.

“At times when you have a switch on, one string comes on and another does not. In Glenarm, Carnlough and Ballygally, this has happened regularly. Glenarm bought their own lights to have on the tree.”

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Larne Lough Alliance Ald Robert Logan proposed the committee approved the recommendation to proceed with the funding application to DfC for the purchase of three artificial Christmas trees, seconded by Coast Road DUP Councillor Andrew Clarke.

Michelle Weir, Local Democracy Reporter