SWANSCOMBE High Street Christmas lights have been taken down before they have even been turned on, in what has been described as “health and safety gone mad”.

Shop workers on the street are worried it will drive away business and leave the street looking “miserable” and quiet.

There are also fears there will be more anti-social behaviour in the darker street.

Ten lampposts in the High Street had Christmas lights fixed to them last month, ready for the big Christmas switch on due for December 1.

But the Swanscombe and Greenhithe Town Council (SGTC) told News Shopper they had to be taken down after permission for the lights was withdrawn by Kent County Council (KCC).

KCC told the town council a structural survey of Kent’s lampposts had shown eight out of 10 of them on Swanscombe’s High Street to be “code red”.

This means they are beyond repair and cannot be relied on to take extra weight.

Leanne Winston, owner of Lea’s Crusty Loaf Sandwich Bar on the street, said: “I feel quite angry really.

“It hasn’t been busy and the high street needs it. It’s pretty miserable here without them.

“I mean, why shouldn’t we have them when Dartford and Gravesend have got them?

“It’s health and safety gone mad! Since when did a few lights cause danger?”

Graham Blew, town clerk at the SGTC, said: “We are bitterly disappointed of course and we obviously apologise to the public. We are as frustrated as they are.

“We would urge that they (KCC) repair the columns as soon as possible.”

News Shopper: Graham Blew

He added: “It’s a concern that quite a large part of the High Street will be in darkness.

“We hope an urgent resolution can be found to avoid antisocial behaviour and to help protect the elderly.”

He has written to KCC about these concerns.

News Shopper: Sam Mummery

Sam Mummery, 28, deputy manager of Springfield Lodge Day Nursery in Craylands Lane, said: “A lot our children live nearby and it’s quite depressing really that their parents will have to go somewhere else, like Dartford, where it’s nicer for Christmas.”

In response, Behdad Haratbar, head of programmed work for Kent County Council, said: “Our primary responsibility is to keep our residents safe and while we have no wish at all to stop the Christmas festivities, in fact quite the opposite, we must make sure that the columns can take the extra load.

“We received information that a number of columns in Swanscombe had been structurally tested and identified as needing replacement, so any further loading on them had to be refused.”