Community groups planning Christmas tree lights ceremonies are expected to be given a one-off helping hand to cover road closure costs forced on them by new departmental rules.
There are plans for 22 lighting up events across the Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council area.
And tonight (Tuesday), the council will be asked to agree a budget of up to £15,000 to ensure all can go ahead.
These events – in towns and villages – take place in late November and early December.
The council already makes money available to groups under its ‘Financial Assistance Policy’ for these festive celebrations.
In the past, some have required roads being closed to facilitate them.
The Department for Infrastructure has introduced new legislation in relation to road closures. If a group does not require to have a road closed for their event then the new legislation does not apply.
But council officers have been contacted by some local groups who are seriously concerned of the impact of the new legislation and associated costs on their event, which they believe does require a road closure.
A report to council on Tuesday night explains: “Groups who meet financial assistant policy criteria will, in the main, be exempt from the application fee for the road closure licence, £269.
“However, they will still be required to make the application for the road closure and pay the associated management costs. Management costs will depend on the size of the event.
“Groups need to apply for the road closure licence 12 weeks in advance of their event.
“Some groups have already been awarded FAP funding for their event this year and therefore it is too late to make provision for any extra costs in their applications.
“In addition, other groups may not as yet be aware of the implications of the new legislation and potential financial impacts.”
As an interim measure – and for this year only – council officers are proposing council makes financial provision for those groups who are planning Christmas tree switch-on events requiring road closures.
The reports adds: “The funding will cover the management costs, to deal with the traffic management plans including signage, which officers have estimated to be in the region of £500-£700 per event. Groups will be required to provide evidence of expenditure to be reimbursed costs.”
Council is being asked to make an “urgent decision”, as organisers have to submit their licensing applications 12 weeks prior to the event.