The first of 300,000 new decorative light bulbs have now been installed on trees along the historic Lord Street boulevard in Southport.
Southport BID is leading the project to replace decorative lighting along each side of the mile-long Victorian shopping street.
They aim to generate pride in the area and encourage shoppers and diners to return once the Covid pandemic and lockdown measures are eased.
Local firm Illumidex UK Ltd began removing the obsolete old lights in November last year and is aiming to complete the ambitious scheme of installing 20 miles of new lights in Spring this year.
Southport BID Chief Executive Officer Rachel Fitzgerald said: “I am delighted to see the first trees on Lord Street are now lit up again!
“Replacing the lights along both sides of this mile-long street is a substantial project, which has been made possible by the BID and its members, the local businesses we have here in Southport town centre.
“Lord Street in Southport is one of the most beautiful and unique shopping streets in the North West. It is home to lots of superb shops, restaurants, cafes, bars, hotels and other local businesses.
“We want to encourage people in our town to think about Lord Street as a place we are all very proud of, and that is why we are investing substantial amounts of money to make it shine.
“We can't wait to see local residents and visitors being able to return and enjoy shopping and enjoying a good night out here.
“I am looking forward to Lord Street encouraging lots of cosmopolitan socialising in Southport.”
Southport BID has provided funding for the scheme and is being supported by £100,000 through a Government Acceleration Grant, under Southport Town Deal.
A further £900,000 of Southport Town Deal funding is currently being spent on transforming Southport Market into an exciting new food, drink and events hub, which is also due to open this Spring - another reason to encourage more visitors into the town centre.
Illumidex UK Ltd owners Steve and Jan Clayton are working ‘like clockwork’ on the Lord Street lighting scheme alongside two co-workers. They began the project two months ago, painstakingly removing three and a half tonnes of obsolete lighting from branches before they were able to begin installing their new ones.
They said: “We have completed eight trees already. We are averaging four trees a night at the moment and are progressively working our way along the street.
“We have started at the Southport Community Fire & Ambulance Station end, just outside Farmfoods, and are moving on from there. Once we reach the Morrisons end of Lord Street we will start lighting up trees on the other side of the road.
“We did have discussions about waiting until all the lights were up before doing a big switch on, but we’re leaving them on as we go along, so people can see Lord Street gradually light up.
“The lights are three times brighter than the previous ones - you need sunglasses to see them! They are a warm white / Champagne colour, they look really good. We felt that ice white would be a bit cold and gloomy. The warm white gives it a nice glow.
“When the project is finished, and all 80 trees are done Lord Street will be like a tunnel of light. It is going to look amazing. You’ll be able to see it from space!”
The Illumidex UK Ltd team of four took two full weeks to unpack all the sets of lights needed for the scheme.
Altogether there are 3,000 sets of lights, containing a total of 300,000 bulbs.
Sefton Council contractors helped by pruning the trees along Lord Street so the new lights could be installed.
Half moon discs, each containing a number, will be attached to each of boulevard’s 80 trees, so local business owners or members of the public can easily identify or report any trees where any issues may need addressing in the months ahead.
At the moment, lockdown is helping Illumidex UK Ltd to move along well.
Steve and Jan said: “This is a mammoth task, but the lockdown is helping us to work quickly. Usually, Lord Street is really vibrant and with all the shops, restaurants and bars there, it stays that way until 11 or 12 o’clock or at night.
“At the moment, it’s really quiet and it’s easy for us to find parking spaces for our cherry picker and our vehicles along the street quite easily, and we can move along from one tree to the next without having to double back because of parked cars. It’s making life a lot easier and saving us some time, so people will be able to look forward to seeing the lights back up in the trees soon.
“We’re based in Southport, and we love decorating our home town. We’re very proud of our work.
“It is what Lord Street needs. It will attract a lot of attention to our town.”
Southport BID has recently launched the new Southport Gift Card as a way of encouraging people to support local businesses. For