A TYLDELSEY councillor has praised the efforts of the community following 'massive' improvements to the town centre's Christmas tree, lights, decorations and switch-on event.

Leigh MP Jo Platt was interviewed on the Jeremy Vine show on BBC Radio 2 last year after our story about the Christmas tree and lights in the town centre being widely criticised made national news, featuring in The Times, The Sun and The Daily Express newspapers.

They were labelled the worst in the country and a petition calling for them to be significantly improved was signed by more than 350 residents concerned that the spirit of Christmas had left the town.

Macmillan Cancer Support’s Wigan and Leigh fundraising group volunteered to improve the festive decorations and lights switch-on event this year and Cllr Hellier has given them a big thumbs up.

Cllr Stephen Hellier said: "This year is a massive improvement after bringing in a supplier from Blackburn who put an extra string of lights on the three-and-a-half metres tree and additional strings across the nearby carriageway."

Children were asked to go to Sunday's switch-on event at Market Square in fancy dress for a best outfit competition and the four winners were given the honour of turning on the lights.

Despite driving sleet and rain, there was a good turnout for the event, which saw Santa arrive on his sleigh, carols sung by St George's Central CE Primary School's choir and Christmas card making for children organised by Kings Church.

There were a range of stalls to enjoy, including model trains, bow making, crafts and festive knitwear, while the food available included free mince pies donated by Tesco.

The living tree, which has grown since last year, was decked out in baubles containing personal messages to loved ones from people who had donated to Macmillan, raising at least £800 for the charity.

Macmillan fundraising manager Emma Pawluk said: "We had to give the existing tree branch extensions so it could hold the near 350 baubles.

"Unlike last year, it is now looking like a communal Christmas tree.

"Hopefully we can do something even better next year but we have to assess how that can be achieved."

Residents praised the switch-on event and tree decorations on Facebook.

One said: "Well done, and the tree looks gorgeous."

Another posted: "Tyldesley is again one proud little place with a beautiful, special tree – nobody will ever have one to match.

"This is ours and ours only."

Another added: "It was lovely seeing all the baubles fill the tree. Well done Tyldesley – the finest tree full of our very own special people."

Cllr Hellier says last year's town centre Christmas decorations were so poor due to complaints made to the council about the amount of money spent on them in 2015.

He added: "Some people would say that Christmas has returned to Tyldesley this year, but I would argue that, despite the problems with the lights last year, it never left."