PLANS are underway to get Colchester in the festive spirit despite coronavirus restrictions.

Each year thousands of festive shoppers usually flock to the town centre to see the streets illuminated by the sparkle of Christmas lights.

The switch-on is one of the town’s biggest events of the year.

But this year organisers have confirmed there will be no switch-on event due to concerns over social distancing.

However, the town centre will still be decked out in sparkly lights and a virtual switch-on video will be held.

Sam Good, BID manager for the Our Colchester Business Improvement District (BID) which co-ordinates festivities, said organisers had been forced to go back to the drawing board.

The town’s Christmas events are usually set in stone in March each year.

He said: “People can still see and experience the lights going on but virtually.

“Across the town businesses will be focused on getting people into the town centre and we will be making the town centre a magical place.

“It will be nostalgic and play to your senses. It will look, feel and smell like Christmas.

“It is going to be the best year for Christmas lights. We are doing additional lights in places like Eld Lane and Crouch Street on top of the normal lights.

“We will be having installations through the town.

“We won’t have a grotto but dress up vacant shops and buildings to look like they are from the North Poll.”

Braintree and Witham Times:

The annual late night shopping events will return on Wednesday nights, with a start date still to be confirmed.

There will also be a focus on making it accessible for all.

Mr Good said: “We did a survey and found there are still a lot of people who are uncomfortable about coming into the town centre.

“We are going to have late night shopping on Wednesdays and also look at quiet shopping.

“We are launching a diamond standard for businesses to make it more accessible for everyone.

“For people with dementia, Alzheimer’s or mental health conditions can look around things at their own speed.

Braintree and Witham Times:

“Shops, businesses and restaurants will have badges and people will be able to have one-to-one shopping experience.

“We also wanted to support key workers who are not able to do their Christmas shopping during the week or at the weekend.”

Mr Good also urged people to shop local admitting if people don’t use the town centre it could be lost,” he said. “The town centre is going through a really hard time but there is light at the end of the tunnel.

“The message really is shop local but not only independents but the national names too as we don’t want to lose them.

“It is about offering things you can’t get online.”

Shoppers can expect to start seeing festive touches from mid November.

Lion Walk and Culver Square shopping centres will also be organising their own festive fun throughout December.