HOCKLEY residents have been left shocked after a popular annual Christmas event was cancelled - due to “operational and safety challenges”.

The annual Hockley Christmas lights night has been ditched because of a lack of volunteers coming forward to help marshal the event as well as operational support, including moving around equipment on the day.

The fun-filled family event usually draws big crowds who enjoy seeing the lights turned on and last year there was an impressive fireworks display.

John Pocklington from Orchard Avenue, Hockley, said it was a disappointment the celebration wouldn’t be taking place.

The 71-year-old said: “Everyone is up in arms about this. It’s usually a big community event of the year, you can’t move it is so packed.

“Hundreds usually come and there are stalls, children dancing, and choirs- to move around was almost impossible because so many people turn up.

“A lot of the shops usually stay open and make a lot of money so they will miss out too.

“I take my grandchild there every year and used to take my children when they were younger - that is three generations.

Ann Fraser, 54, from Rochford, added: “It’s like Christmas has been cancelled. We look forward to watching the lights being turned on every year but won’t get to this year.”

Roy Martin, the chairman of Hockley Parish Council, explained: “ This year the parish council has encountered some late operational and safety challenges which we do not have the resources to resolve in time.”It is also unlikely we will have the support of either the police or the fire service due to their other priorities.

“As we would not wish to compromise public safety or scale the event down, the council has made the difficult decision to postpone the activities rather than be faced with a last-minute cancellation situation.”

He said the council had discussed options with all parties involved.

He added: “We’re all very disappointed but would like to assure everyone that we have started planning for 2017 and will be rolling out other attractions which can be safely managed.” The Christmas lights are going up in Hockley as usual, but without the celebration.” The council has urged anyone wanting to join the Festive Lights committee to get in touch to help ensure it takes place next year.