SPARKS are flying between town leaders after council chiefs confirmed there will be no official Bonfire Night celebrations for Peterlee this year.
For many years, Peterlee has been the centre for thousands of East Durham residents to flock to mark Guy Fawkes’ Night.
Outrage was sparked around three years ago, when the bonfire was taken away from the event, leaving only fireworks and children’s entertainment.
But now the town council has confirmed it will be pulling the plug completely on November 5’s fun.
The decision was made at a town council meeting before the 2014-15 budget was set.
Town council leader, Councillor Bill Jeffrey, insists the reason is because of health and safety and congestion caused by the heavy traffic that descends on the Helford Road site.
But fellow town councillor Andrew Watson, of the Free and Independent Representation (FAIR) Party, claims it is due to cost-cutting.
The event is said to cost between £4,000 and £7,000 to stage.
But Coun Jeffrey said: “It wasn’t done because of money, it was done because of health and safety. Last year there was a lot of congestion – people couldn’t get in or out.
“But where do you stand if there’s an emergency?”
The Labour councillor said as neighbouring villages don’t have fireworks displays, people from across East Durham were flocking to Peterlee, adding to traffic problems.
He added that people were parking in front of residents’ houses and driving on footpaths to get around.
But Coun Watson said: “It’s a load of rubbish.
“The reason is they can’t afford it, it’s a money-saving exercise. “Durham County Council and County Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue Service (CDDFRS) recommend people go to an organised display. “Seven thousand people turned up last year, it’s an excellent night for the people of Peterlee.
“The bairns love it, but they haven’t got one to go to now.
“My concern is the health and safety of the people who will now be having fireworks and bonfires in their back gardens.”
A fire service spokeswoman said: “We have supported this popular event organised by Peterlee Town Council in previous years.
“We worked with the safety advisory group and helped the town council with fire risk assessments each year.
“For safety reasons we always advise people to go to an organised firework display.”