Singing brownies banned for being 'health and safey risk'

Carol singing brownies have been banned from a Hemel Hempstead shopping centre because they are considered a health and safety risk.

Little girls from the West Herts guides have sung for pensioners at a special late night Christmas shopping event in Marlowes for more than a decade.

But the centre's managers decided they would not be invited to this year's event because they would obstruct fire escape routes.

Division commissioner Gill Oxtoby said: "It's such a shame because the girls enjoy the singing and the elderly people like seeing them.

"It's a long tradition and has always been a good opportunity for the girls to give some service to the community."

She added: "We weren't even told that we couldn't attend. I went to ask what date it was and that's when I found out.

"They then offered to let us send a handful of girls but we can't do that, it wouldn't be fair to the others."

Marlowes bosses have told the group they can send a maximum of 20 girls to perform at the event on Tuesday (December 2).

They say the new Christmas tree positioned outside New Look and a number of mobile trade stalls have limited the number of performers the centre can host at one time.

Marketing manager Eileen Gannon said: "With changes made to the centre's Christmas decorations and trade units there simply isn't space for a huge number of performers.

"We're disappointed, but our priority has to be the safety of people inside the centre."

In the past, the annual late night shopping event for the elderly and disabled, where volunteers help people who are less mobile do a spot of festive shopping, has featured carol singing, majorettes and choirs.

Last year the Girl Guiding UK West Herts division, which covers Kings Langley, Hemel Hempstead, Berkhamsted and Tring, sent 100 of its members to sing for shoppers.

Eileen said the new rules were open to change in the future, as decisions made on decorations in the centre are different each year.

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