Updated: May 25, 2012
Reactions to health and safety ban for Burnham's Jubilee bunting

Somerset County Council has been criticised for banning patriotic Jubilee bunting from being hung on lamp posts along Burnham-On-Sea High Street due to health and safety concerns.

Burnham-On-Sea.com first reported here that Burnham Chamber of Trade had hoped to install several hundred metres of bunting between lighting columns and shops in the town centre to add a splash of colour during the Queen's Jubilee celebrations.

However, the group has been told that a number of risk assessments would have to be carried out and that the lamp posts would have to be stress-tested before the bunting could be hung up due to concerns it come down on pedestrians below.

Jonathan Walter of Burnham Chamber of Trade told Burnham-On-Sea.com: "Personally, I am disappointed that the County Council feels there is a need to stress test lamp posts for something as lightweight as bunting just because there are concerns the bunting might blow down onto pedestrians. What damage can a bit of string and plastic do?"

Somerset County Council said in a statement on Thursday: "Somerset County Council is very happy to help local councils put up bunting to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee and other events. We recommend councils use their existing fixing points for Christmas lights, CCTV cameras or such like. Two years ago a lamppost came down in London, killing a child, and it's important we avoid a similar tragedy in Somerset."

Judith Hackitt from the Chair of the Health and Safety Executive said: "This is a classic case of health and safety being used totally inappropriately as an excuse for excessively risk averse behaviour. Hanging lightweight bunting from lamp posts is a low risk activity and to suggest that it may cause lampposts to fall over is ridiculous. The case in London that the county council refers to is one that involved work-related activity. I can categorically say that it was nothing whatsoever to do with bunting and it is wholly inappropriate to link the two situations. Let's be clear, there’s nothing in health and safety law to prevent anyone from celebrating the Queen’s Jubilee. The Diamond Jubilee should be a huge national event, a time for celebrating together, getting a real sense of community going, up and down the country – not for getting tied up in pointless red tape. The organisers are right to challenge this silly decision."

Burnham's MP Tessa Munt told Burnham-On-Sea.com: "I have spoken to the SCC Transport Manager and SCC Senior Highways Officer asking why we have to stress test street lamps to have bunting attached. When I get a sensible answer I will let everyone know."

Mayor Ken Smout added: "Our clerk contacted Somerset County Council who said it was not safe to hang the bunting from the lampposts. It is a shame we cannot hang the bunting from the lampposts and it does seem a bit like health and safety gone mad. We wanted to do something which had a big visual impact in the town. But the posts are the responsibility of the highways authority and that is their decision. There are lots of things going on in Burnham to mark the jubilee and we will not allow the bunting issue to spoil it."

Cllr Peter Burridge-Clayton told Burnham-On-Sea.com: "I have looked in to this issue and it would seem there seems to be some confusion regarding certain facts. Anybody that wishes to attach anything to lighting columns be it hanging baskets, bunting or such like would require a license. In this case no license has been applied for. A wrong assumption was made that this bunting could be attached without the permission of SCC. We will be in discussion with the Chamber of Trade, the Town Council and SCC officers in the next few days and I am sure the bunting will be up well before the events start. There are height restrictions regarding bunting over a footway but I am sure there are numerous anchor points that will overcome these restrictions. The Christmas lighting doesn't seem to be a problem so I can see no reason why these anchor points could not be used."

Town Councillor Phil Harvey added: "This is crazy. Stress testing the lamp posts would obviously cost considerably more than the bunting itself. It's important that the town centre should look as welcoming as possible during the Jubilee."

The Chamber of Trade is now planning to hang 750 metres of bunting along the fronts of buildings along parts of the High Street, College Street and Victoria Street instead. The lighting columns in Burnham High Street are due to be replaced with modern new lamp posts later this year. As recently reported here, Burnham will not be entering the Britain In Bloom competition this year due to restrictions on flower baskets being hung from the lamp posts.


Complete guide to Jubilee celebrations in Burnham and Highbridge


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