First floods – now gales scupper festive lights switch-on
HIGH winds have blown away plans for a star-studded Christmas lights switch-on tonight.
With gusts of nearly 70mph expected, Plymouth city bosses have been forced to postpone their switch-on razzmatazz.
Panto stars Basil Brush and Christopher Biggins were to switch on the lights at an event featuring live music and entertainment on stage in the city centre.
Now shoppers will miss out on an evening of entertainment, also featuring the Military Wives Choir.
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The lights will still be turned on as part of a day of celebrations marking the launch of the winter festival, and a Christmas market will go ahead as planned.
City centre manager Clint Jones said: "There is no way we can go ahead from the safety perspective.
"The forecast is for a 37mph wind with gusts up to 67mph, so we have restrictions in place on the use of the staging.
"It's a bit of a nightmare, really. It's frustrating, but safety has to be at the forefront.
"And it's not like everything else won't happen."
He said the entertainment would be rescheduled for nearer to Christmas.
"We're incredibly disappointed but the severe weather warning is well beyond what we could consider to be safe for a stage, and with public safety our top priority we cannot carry on with that element of the event," Mr Jones added.
"Late-night Christmas shopping will still begin on Thursday night after the lights are switched on at 6pm. There just won't be the usual ceremony that goes with it.
"The opening of the Christmas market, Santa's grotto and the winter ice rink will still go ahead, so for those planning on heading into the city centre there will still be plenty to see and do."
A City Centre Company spokeswoman added: "Forecast wind speeds have been closely monitored and with gusts now expected to reach up to Gale Force 8, accompanied by very heavy rain, it would not be safe to set up the staging and technical equipment needed for the event.
"The Met Office has also warned of possible damage to temporary structures.
"The City Centre Company and the council are determined to reschedule the stage entertainment for a date closer to Christmas and discussions are already under way with all parties involved."
Deputy council leader Peter Smith said: "We know this news will be very disappointing, not only to the thousands of spectators who were looking forward to the event but also the performers and special guests taking part.
"Decisions like this are never taken lightly – a great deal of time and effort goes in to organising the switch-on – but public safety always has to be our number one priority.
"We are very hopeful that the entertainment will still go ahead in a few weeks' time."
First Devon and Cornwall has withdrawn today's planned special late-night park and ride services because of the cancellation.