Christmas retailers left in the dark for late-night opening

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To light or not to light, that is the question being asked by local businesses after BID4Oban set the date for the big Christmas switch-on for November 23.

In previous years the festive light-up, and the Reindeer Parade that accompanies it, have been held on the first Saturday of the Winter Festival, which this year runs from November 15-24 with an event also taking place on St Andrews Day, Saturday November 30.

BID4Oban chief executive Andrew Spence told The Oban Times that the date had been changed after listening to concerns from members of the public and local businesses that the switch-on was too early.

But Graham Fraser, owner of Alba Art Shop, argued that many retail outlets  had been left in the dark with regards to the change. He added: ‘Shopkeepers around the town keep their businesses open later on the Thursday night of the festival (November 19) and the town is usually all lit up.

‘I just found out last week that this year they wouldn’t be switched on until the end of the festival and, after speaking to many other shop owners in the area, I found that nobody had talked to them about it either.

‘My concern is that because there will be no lights or parade until the penultimate day, people coming along to enjoy specific festival events won’t walk around the town as much on the late-night opening evening and notice what we all have to offer.

‘Who wants to go shopping when everything is in darkness? The fairy lights add a bit of sparkle to the occasion, they put everyone in the Christmas spirit and make their festive shopping outing a magical experience.

‘I was really disappointed to learn they won’t be on this year.’

Mr Spence defended the position of the organisation tasked with improving Oban as a commercial and tourist destination.

‘Over the years, we have had a lot of inquiries from people asking why the switch-on and parade were happening so early,’ he said.

‘If we had set the date for Saturday November 16, that would have been five and a half weeks before Christmas, which most people we spoke to felt was too soon.

‘It is booked and done for this year and can’t be changed but if there is a strong objection, then businesses are welcome to come and talk to us. We always listen to our businesses and take their opinions on board.’

Spending of the last of the council’s festive funds has been agreed to bring even more sparkle to the streets of Oban and Tobermory this year.

After a budget decision in February 2016, Argyll and Bute council stopped delivering the christmas lights service and embarked on a community handover project.

Last week’s Oban, Lorn and the Isles Area Committee endorsed the work of the council’s streetlighting team in developing the project and agreed the final £10,000 left in the festive fund pot should be split with £7,390 going to Oban and £2,710 going to Tobermory.