Landlord pays for his own illuminations

Lee Robson with the Christmas Lights he paid to have installed on the wall of his Westminster pub High Street West.
Lee Robson with the Christmas Lights he paid to have installed on the wall of his Westminster pub High Street West.
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A ROW between a pub owner and the city council over a lack of Christmas lights has been reignited.

The Echo reported earlier this month how city businessman Lee Robson was unhappy that Sunderland’s Christmas lights didn’t extend to High Street West – where his bar Westminster is based.

He believed the council should have lit up the street to entice visitors to the area’s bars and Sunderland Empire’s pantomime Cinderella.

Mr Robson also complained that building work around the street – pub Brogan’s has been demolished, Crowtree Leisure Centre is being knocked down and a new hotel is being built at the bottom of Chester Road – was damaging custom.

At the time, the council said the development work meant it was unable to put up lights around High Street West.

Instead, Mr Robson took matters into his own hands and forked out for his own illuminations – a ‘Merry Christmas’ sign at a cost of £300.

He spoke to council leader Paul Watson at this month’s State of the City debate about the problem and was waiting for the councillor to get back to him. Mr Robson said: “I went out and spent £300 and paid for lights for my building. I was quite happy to do that.

“I spoke to Coun Watson on the night and he said he would email us, but he has not.

“I’m a bit disappointed.

“When you look at the civic centre, it is all lit up, but there is no-one there. I have kept my end of the bargain.”

Coun Watson said he had listened to Mr Robson’s concerns at the meeting.

He said: “We did look into them and will continue to do so.”

Coun John Kelly, Sunderland City Council’s portfolio holder for public health, wellness and culture, said: “A sum of £45,000 has been agreed for this year’s city centre Christmas lights, and the illuminations and work around them have been delivered on behalf of the city by Sunderland Live and Aurora Street Lighting.

“There is ongoing regeneration work close to the former Crowtree Leisure Centre, with the creation of the new St Mary’s Way and public square at the western end of the High Street.

“While work around this development are progressing, it has, unfortunately, limited some of the scope for additional lights in the area.

“As we look to festive and Christmas lights in the future, we are also exploring options with business contributions.”