Christmas tree power struggle in Horncastle

The tree outside the town's Heron store, which has remained unlit. Photo: John Aron.
The tree outside the town's Heron store, which has remained unlit. Photo: John Aron.

A leading food retailer has denied allegations it has acted ‘like Scrooge’ after claims it refused to provide the electricity to light decorations on Horncastle’s Christmas tree.

For many years, the tree has been erected outside a building now occupied by Heron Foods, and is a focal point of the town’s much praised decorations.

The tree outside the town's Heron store, which has remained unlit. Photo: John Aron.

The tree outside the town's Heron store, which has remained unlit. Photo: John Aron.

Power for the lights on the tree has been supplied free of charge by Heron - and by previous occupants of the building.

This year, members of the town’s Lions Club asked to use the power supply again and according to them, were told by the staff at the store to go ahead.

However, the Lions claim permission was then withdrawn which explains why last week the tree was not lit at the same time as the other decorations in the town.

Lions’ spokesman Bob Wayne told the News: “We asked the store for permission and were told to go ahead.

The tree outside the town's Heron store, which has remained unlit. Photo: John Aron.

The tree outside the town's Heron store, which has remained unlit. Photo: John Aron.

“However, we were then told it wasn’t possible, apparently after the intervention of someone from head office.”

Mr Wayne denied suggestions the Lions’ representatives marched into the store and ‘plugged in’ without permission.”

In an email sent to Heron’s head office, he says: “Do you really believe that for a number of years members of the public have been able to enter the shop, walk through the storage area and up into the old offices without asking permission?

“Could the problem be with the Heron management structure and communications?”

Mr Wayne goes on to say that Heron had ‘implied’ the connection was terminated because of safety reasons.

His email asks Heron: “Can you point out to me on which page of the 17th Edition of the Electrical Regs would back that assertion.

“I am sorry if Heron feel we have taken them for granted but quite simply the Lions and the Town Council have never come across a situation where traders have not welcomed an opportunity to contribute to the Christmas spirit.”

Mr Wayne told the News the financial implications involved ‘pennies, not pounds.’

He also revealed the Co-Op Funeral parlour, next door to Heron, had agreed to supply the power.

He added: “I cannot believe Heron are not more community spirited, especially at this time of year. It all seems very scrooge-like.”

In a statement, Heron Foods said: “We are a community based store and very much help local communities where possible.

“Heron Foods have been in contact with a senior member from the Lions club and have explained to them that we would be more than happy to supply electrics for the Christmas tree that is lit every year by Heron Foods.

“However, it is of upmost importance to us that the electric supply is running from a safe circuit.

“The connection of four electric cables from external services into a four socket extension lead connected into two further single socket extension leads connected to a wall mounted single socket is not good practice and not how we operate our shop services.

“We have advised the Lions club that should they wish to use our electric to light their Christmas tree this year, we would require a formal request to our Head Office whereby we would be more than happy to assist and advise on the type of connection we can permit from our electrical services.

“Unfortunately, Lions club have not aksed for this permission and therefore we have not been able to come to a solution to this matter.”

Meanwhile, in another development, officials from the town’s Foodbank say they have been denied permission to put a donation basket in the Heron store in the build up to Christmas.

A spokeswoman for the company said: “In reference to the Horncastle Foodbank, Heron Foods have donated hundreds of thousands of pounds to charity in the past and will support many local charities throughout the business.

“We leave any charity support in store up to the manager’s discretion and more often than not, stores would be happy to help.”

He also agreed the Co-Op Funeral parlour, next to Heron Foods, had agreed to supply the power.