CHRISTMAS has been all but cancelled in Halstead this year after a string of festive events were axed by organisers.

Some of the festive season’s biggest crowd-pullers have been scuppered for safety reasons because of the coronavirus pandemic and rules on mass gatherings.

The town’s torchlight procession, which attracts hundreds of people and was due to take place on December 2, has been cancelled.

A town council working group confirmed it is considered too risky to hold a mass gathering. Instead there are plans to put film footage of last year’s procession on Facebook for people to watch.

The civic reception after the procession has also been cancelled.

Another major Christmas event to be hit by the pandemic is the annual Christmas lights switch-on which was set to take place on November 28.

It sees large crowds gather in the Public Gardens.

While the lights are still going up, there will be no public event to mark turning them on.

Other events which have been shelved this year include the Halstead Christmas Fayre, which has been pulled by the town’s chamber of commerce; the Christmas tree festival at St Andrew’s Church; and over-60s Christmas parties.

Halstead Chamber of Trade and Commerce chairman Mark Jeffrey said: “The chamber of trade and commerce have made the decision this evening to cancel the Christmas fayre and the evening reception at Holy Trinity Church for 2020.

“This was a hard decision to make as over the past few years the event has grown in popularity and worked well with the fayre before the council event of the lights switch-on and after with our reception at the church.

“With the town council cancelling their festive events and the uncertainty of what the local situation regarding Covid-19 restrictions will be at the time, we are not able to risk putting on the event.

“The event last year cost around £5,000 to put on and the money is generated from stall-holders and advertising in the programme.

“We receive no other funding. This is money we would not be able to guarantee coming in and we cannot risk and jeopardise the future of the chamber.

“As well as the financial aspects, the event is run by a limited group of volunteers who all run their own businesses which, of course, has had to take priority over the past months.

“As a chamber we need to look at the town throughout the year, not just at Christmas, and will be meeting soon to put a plan for 2021 in place to bring in more people to the town with our membership of Visit Essex and put on more events over the year, working with local businesses.

“We will be in contact with both Halstead Town Council and Braintree Council to see ways of getting help and assistance for local business both in the High Street and in our industrial areas.”