A festive pub owner has been left disappointed after he gifted a Christmas tree to the people of Stockton – only for it to be taken away by Stockton Council.
Tired of the controversy surrounding the High Street’s current Christmas feature businessman Craig Harker decided to make his own seasonal gesture.
So the owner of The George pub put his hand in his own pocket and spent “a few hundred pounds” to buy and decorate the biggest real Christmas tree he could find.
He then placed it outside the front of his business and invited local children along to help with the decoration.
But today Craig spoke of his dismay after learning that the tree has been removed less than 24 hours later.
The authority says it had received a report that the tree had blown over – and that workers took it away this morning “while making efforts to establish who owns it.”
Watch the CCTV footage below to see Mr Harker’s Christmas tree falling over and nearly hitting a man as he passes by.
It happens on the bottom-right corner of the screen.
The council has now tweeted that it is talking to Mr Harker.
An official statement says the authority is contacting the pub landlord.
“I am devastated,” said Mr Harker. “It was just a gift to the town to try and improve the area.
“It was meant to be a bit of Christmas spirit but it seems to have had the opposite effect.”
A post on the council’s Twitter feed this morning read: “Teams responded to reports of a Christmas tree that had blown over in Stockton High Street this morning.
“This was removed for safety reasons. We’re now talking to the owner of the tree.”
Craig, 26, of Hardwick, Stockton, said he was particularly disappointed that no one from the council spoke to him first.
He added: “I called the council this morning and they confirmed they had taken it away for health and safety issues.
“But if someone had contacted me I would have told them it was a gift and worked with them to make it safe.
“I had put gravel in the bottom and put railings round to make it as secure as possible.”
Craig said he was not concerned about the financial cost to himself.
Rather, the 14ft real tree was intended to provide shoppers with a traditional alternative to the contemporary design positioned further down the High Street.
The controversial white tree was a gift to the council by contractors carrying out regeneration work in the town.
But the 20ft cone-shaped feature received a mixed reaction from residents – with many ridiculing the festive decoration and one national newspaper dubbing it the worst in Britain.
Defending his home town Craig said: “The tree itself I like, but it’s the bad publicity that has come from it that I don’t like.
“Everything the council is doing in the town is excellent. Stockton is a great place to live.
“It is just a shame that it is never recognised for all the good stuff that we have here.”
A council spokesman added: “We received a call from a member of the public this morning informing us that the tree had blown over.
“Council staff recovered the tree and took it to a nearby compound while making efforts to establish who owns it.
“We are contacting Mr Harker to discuss this further.”
Of the white tree a spokesman from Stockton Council previously said: “We’re in the middle of a multi-million pound redevelopment of the high street.
“The central and northern sections are quite literally a building site, so there’s no room for our normal 40ft high spruce, which will be back next year.
“In the interim we’ve used the 20ft cone with illuminated snowflake designs, rather than leave this part of the street bare.”
Christmas trees can also be found in the town’s Wellington Square, the Castlegate Shopping Centre and the Shambles.