HENLEY town centre will be decorated with new Christmas lights this year.
The town council is to spend £46,580 on the strings of lights for Reading Road, Duke Street, Friday Street and the western half of Hart Street.
The plain white LED bulbs will be hung from a network of steel support cables that will be anchored to the sides of buildings and can easily be swapped for coloured lights or animated displays in the shape of stars, snowflakes, icicles and other seasonal symbols.
They will be in a “festoon” style, which the council says will mean the lights will cover a wider area and make a greater impression on visitors. Lights will also be installed permanently on the roof of the town hall.
These will also be able to be used at other times of the year by people hiring the town hall for weddings and functions in return for a fee.
The lights will be supplied by Light Angels, of Hampshire.
They will include low-voltage lights for the town’s Christmas tree, which will be switched on as part of the evening festival on Friday, December 2, and upward-facing lights for the sides of the town hall.
The company will also illuminate trees in Gravel Hill, Market Place, Singers Park, Red Lion Lawn and Northfield End.
The town council will pay the cost over five years, starting with a first instalment of £12,900 this year to cover the installation costs and then £8,420 each year for the next four. The council will own all the lighting once it has paid the full amount.
The town’s Christmas lights used to be supplied by Merlin Lighting, of Sussex, but the council was unable to contact anyone from the company when emergency repairs were needed last year and had to call in Light Angels.
In a report to the council’s finance strategy and management committee, town clerk Janet Wheeler said Merlin had “failed to comply with their obligations in a satisfactory manner”.
The council put the contract out to tender in the summer.
The steel wires are expected to last for at least ten years while the ongoing maintenance and installation costs at the end of the contract would be £6,500 at 2019 prices. Mrs Wheeler told councillors she usually favoured renting Christmas lights but in this case buying represented better value for money, especially as the lights would be interchangeable.
She said: “Unlike a framed cross-street motif, this overhead festoon lighting covers a far greater area of the town centre, creating more connectivity and enhancing the overall feel throughout the festive period.
“This will help to promote the town as a winter destination, increasing footfall which will obviously be beneficial for local businesses and services.”
Councillor Sam Evans, who chairs the council’s Christmas decorations sub-committee, said: “I am very excited about this — the town is going to look absolutely stunning.
“It’s a slightly old-fashioned, traditional lighting scheme that will create a warm, welcoming and lively glow across a larger area. I’m sure most people will love it.”