A POPULAR Christmas event which has been attracting bumper crowds for more than a quarter of a century has been cancelled due to coronavirus.

Nearly all of the houses in Poole's Runton Road are normally lit up for Christmas, with visitors' donations handed to charity.

The cul-de-sac has even been dubbed Britain's most festive street in the national press.

However, its annual dazzling display will be on hold for 2020 – after neighbours decided it may be too much of a risk to the public if it went ahead.

A statement on the Runton Road Christmas Lights facebook page, which has been inundated with messages of good will from supporters, read: "Unfortunately due to the coronavirus issue, after speaking to a large quantity of the residents in Runton Road it has been reluctantly decided that it would be far too much of a risk to the general public to hold our annual Christmas lights displays this year.

"Therefore we have decided with heavy hearts to cancel all of our usual Christmas light displays and festivities for this year.

"We do hope Runton Road Christmas Lights display will be able to return in 2021.

"We are also very sad that this year we will be unable to help our chosen charities either which hopefully we will be able to do again in 2021.

"We look forward to seeing all of you Christmas 2021."

What began as friendly rivalry between neighbours in the early 1990s, became a festive tradition that normally attracts thousands of visitors from miles around.

Aside from the lights, there are usually performances from singers, dancers and choirs.

Among those reacting online to the news of the cancellation, Charlotte Jones said: "A Christmas tradition that will be really missed this year but completely understand why.

"Given the amount of people that come to look at the amazing lights, it would be too much of a risk in the current situation.

"We will be back to visit in Christmas 2021."

Meanwhile, Avril Coulton said: "This is sad but understandable in the circumstances.

"Thank you for all you do with the lights and what you raise for various charities and have done over the years.

"Our family look forward to 2021, perhaps people can donate anyway?

"Thank you again."