Sparks are flying in Totnes following the council’s decision to change this year’s Christmas light display.

Back in May, the local council said this year’s decorations would be replaced as the previous festoon lighting was deemed unsafe.

In a statement, the council explained that the high cost of making essential repairs to rigging points, as well as the restrictions of working on listed buildings and the delays involved in seeking permissions, made it impossible to continue using the old lights.

Instead, work is now in process to decorate various focal points along the town, including the trees on The Plains, the trees in the Shady Garden, the Eastgate Arch, the Civic Square and Civic Hall, and the trees in The Rotherfold.

The contract for the work has been awarded to Blachere Illumination, a firm based in Fife, Scotland for some £45,000. All the lights on buildings are due to be put up by November 15.

But some residents are angry at what they have seen so far, accusing the council of wasting taxpayers’ money on a display that is too expensive and not as good as the old festoon lighting.

A member of the public who wished to remain anonymous said: “It’s incredible they’ve spent 40 grand to just put some lights on a couple of trees. This is quite a big thing in Christmas.”

He said would be lodging a formal complaint to the council.

Vic Willmington, the secretary of the town’s chamber of commerce, said he was trying to raise about £4,000 to renovate the old street lighting and put it on display in time for the switch on later this month, on November 28.

He said the move was in response to the wishes of both traders and residents who felt the new display fell short of what the town needed.

“The streets lights are the magical part, they lift people’s spirits, particularly at that time of the year. The problem (with the new display) is that there’s no light in the streets. The consensus of local businesses is that if there are no lights in Fore Street, Totnes looks closed and people won’t venture into the main square or the narrows,” he said.

He rejected the council’s claims that the old lights were no longer fit for purpose.

“Refurbishing is cheaper than buying new. I’m a retired engineer and I’ve asked for the safety reports on the fixing points, and as far as I can ascertain there isn’t one, so we do not know if they’re not suitable.

“Given that they’ve been used for 20 years and things haven’t fallen down, we must assume that they’re safe,” he said.

Mr Willmington, who is giving his time for free, said he was now in a race against time to have the Christmas lights ready in time for the switch on.