YEARS of Poole Christmas tradition has come to an end, after Dolphin Centre chiefs decided to scrap this year’s yuletide Santa Parade on safety grounds.

Thousands of residents, many of them young children, normally line the route from Poole Quay to the town’s Dolphin Shopping Centre, eager to catch a glimpse of Santa as he’s dropped off on the quayside by boat.

But this year, in a move condemned by many residents, Santa has been barred from making his town centre journey amid ‘safety concerns’.

Dolphin Shopping Centre manager John Grinnell explained: “Our Santa parade has been one of the most popular events in Poole, and we’ve loved putting it on every year.

“Sadly, however, we’ve become a victim of our own success. As we’ve seen the numbers swell every year, we’ve become increasingly concerned about the volume of people in such a confined space, especially around moving vehicles.”

Poole resident Daniel Carrington said he couldn’t believe the parade, which has taken place in some form or other since the 1970s, has been scrapped.

“It’s crazy,” he said. “This is something local children look forward to every year. It’s not exactly getting behind the true spirit of Christmas by doing this is it?”

Pam Stephens, from Poole, said: “Many thousands of people – adults, children, grandparents alike, have spent their time waiting for Father Christmas on the Quay and for lots of people it is the beginning of their Christmas.

“For them to suddenly spring this on us is disgusting, I think they’re going to try and cancel Christmas altogether in Poole. There’s not much to look forward to this day and age; it was a little bit of light-heartedness and hope for Christmas.”

Mr Grinnell said staff had explored ways of keeping the parade going, including looking into alternative routes – but none of these would have lived up to events of previous years.

“We always have to put the safety of our customers and the community first,” he said. “So this year we’ve decided to adapt the event to a Christmas lights switch-on to be held in Falkland Square.”

The Christmas light switch-on, set for Thursday, November 27, will be a free event including family entertainment.

Mr Grinnell explained: “We know it will be a fantastic evening, with Debra Stephenson turning on the lights in aid of Julia’s House, and many of the stakeholders involved in the Santa Parade have been invited to take part in the Christmas lights switch-on.

“We’d like to thank everyone who has contributed to the parade since the beginning for making it such a success.”