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MELKSHAM’S Christmas lights team got a nasty surprise last week when they were handed a parking ticket on their first day setting up this year’s display.
The team of volunteers have spent the last 20 years arranging the town’s much admired Christmas lights, but this was apparently a first for them.
While working in the Market Place last Wednesday, the team parked their van and cherry picker on double yellow lines outside the Town Hall. A passing traffic warden then put a ticket on the van, despite the team’s efforts to explain what they were doing.
Volunteer Paul Weymouth told Melksham News, “If we had left the van and gone shopping I’d understand, but we were right there and we explained who we were. The warden rang Wiltshire Council to check and was told the council had never heard of us.
“Wiltshire Council actually used us as an excuse not to do the work on the Market Place. Now they’re fining us for being there – it’s unbelievable.
“The warden told us we needed to put the cherry picker in a parking space! They said I couldn’t park there and would keep getting tickets if I did.
“We do the lights for free and it takes a long time and a lot of hard work. Nearer to Christmas we’ll be out in the town every day; I’ll change every lightbulb in County Hall before I pay a single parking fine.”
A photo was later posted on social media of the ticket and people vented their frustration about the situation.
Ben Crayford contacted Melksham News and said, “This is absolutely disgusting when they spend so much of their time for free making the town ready for Christmas.”
Since the ticket was issued, Melksham town and county councillor Jon Hubbard has spoken to Wiltshire Council, had the ticket revoked, and arranged for the team to be issued with a permit.
Cllr Hubbard said, “This was a problem with council red tape that has been resolved.
“The council must recognise that we’re asking volunteers to do more and more now so we shouldn’t be putting hurdles in their way, and certainly not penalising them for it.
“On the plus side this was a good example of how the system should work. The council made a mistake, a local councillor was told, then the mistake was fixed and the council has apologised.”