Five inspirational young Hartlepool women will switch on the town's Christmas lights instead of Coronation Street star Brooke Vincent.
Brooke, who played Sophie Webster in the ITV soap and also competed in Dancing on Ice, was due to flick the switch in Church Square on Friday night.
But organisers Hartlepool Borough Council say the external agency through which it booked Brooke’s appearance has ceased to trade meaning that through no fault of either Brooke, her management team or the council, she is now no longer able to appear.
Joining the Mayor of Hartlepool Councillor Allan Barclay now to press the button at 6.30pm will be 2018 X Factor finalist Molly Scott, from Easington who studied at English Martyrs School; youngster and Best of Hartlepool award winners Dottie O’Keefe, who is making amazing progress to walk, despite having cerebral palsy; and 12-year-old Neisha Webb, who was born with part of one leg missing but has become a talented cheerleader against the odds with the help of a prosthetic blade.
Completing the line up of 'girl power' will be town boxing champion Savannah Marshall and 2018 Keep Britain Tidy Litter Hero Jessica Stones
The event will also mark the official reopening of the town’s Church Square after a multi-million pound transformation.
The festive family event is on Friday, November 30, around the Christmas tree in Church Square from 4pm to 7pm.
Molly will sing to the crowds and there will be performances by North-East songstress Channy Thompson, Hartlepool musicians Pek and Wanley plus Durham City acoustic trio North Road.
Hartlepool's Miss Toni’s Academy Choir will be in fine voice with Christmas classics and there’ll be traditional fun from the stars of upcoming Town Hall Theatre pantomime Cinderella.
BBC Tees radio presenters Neil Green and Amy Oakden will once again compere the event.
Councillor Kevin Cranney, Chair of the council’s Regeneration Services Committee, said: “We’re sorry that through no fault of either Brooke, her management or the Council, Brooke won’t be able to join us on Friday.
“However, we’re delighted that five of Hartlepool’s own inspirational young women have stepped in and kindly agreed to do the honours and get Christmas well and truly underway in this fun-packed event for all the family.
“What better location than Church Square, which thanks to our major regeneration project has been revitalised, creating a lovely environment for people to enjoy and where businesses can flourish. Together with Church Street, it will help create a thriving route from the town centre and transport interchange down to what will be the redeveloped waterfront.”
Over the past year Church Street and Church Square have undergone a £3.4m council scheme to revitalise the area including Church Square being pedestrianised and a large oval event space created in front of Hartlepool Art Gallery surrounded by trees and lawn, providing an attractive area for various events.
The project has been funded by the Tees Valley Combined Authority and by National Lottery players through the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) with local firm Seymour Civil Engineering the main contractor.
Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen said: “It’s great to see our investments in the town coming to life, delivering a real and visible upgrade to Church Square and the surrounding area. But this is just the beginning and there’s much more investment to come.”
Ivor Crowther, head of the Heritage Lottery Fund North-East, said: "This is a fantastic chance to celebrate the success of the Church Square scheme and look forward to the opportunities that will be provided for heritage, businesses and the local community as part of the Church Street conservation works.”
Kevin Byrne, Managing Director of Seymour Civil Engineering, added: "We are proud to have been the main contractor delivering this impressive, high quality project which has transformed Church Square.”