Longfield Hospice has cancelled their annual Christmas tree collection as a result of the latest lockdown.

The annual fundraiser, which has raised more than £20,000 in previous years, was due to take place from January 10-12.

Refunds are available for people who arranged for their tree to be collected, but the hospice is asking people not to claim them due to the 'unprecedented circumstances' which led to the cancellation.

A post on the Longfield website said: "Despite the extensive efforts made by our team to ensure that all risk assessments were updated and risks mitigated where possible, we feel the overall risk to the health of the 150 plus volunteers and staff who would have been supporting this initiative, and to the local communities where they would be actively collecting, was too great.

"The latest announcement by the Government putting the country into lockdown, insisting on people staying at home, and avoiding all non-essential travel has forced us to consider that the Christmas Tree Recycling scheme was no longer possible and in a national pandemic cannot be considered essential.

"We have a responsibility to support the Government’s regulations and ensure that we keep our community as safe as possible. We are also aware that the new strain of Covid-19 has a rapid transmission rate and hospitals are under increased pressure and strain, we must avoid adding to this problem.

"Our amazing band of 150 plus volunteers and staff consisted of many corporates, community groups and individuals who were not a part of a ‘household bubble’ therefore we felt it irresponsible to mix households when the Government has clearly set out that we must not do this. Some volunteers had already taken the decision they could no longer take part due to personal circumstances or corporate policies, which also formed part of our decision making.

"We must stress, this decision has not been taken lightly. We sincerely apologise for any inconvenience caused to you for not being able to collect your Christmas tree.

"We fully appreciate this is extremely frustrating and of course we are ourselves devastated that we cannot proceed, not only to satisfy the community but for the vital income the scheme generates for Longfield, for our patients and families"

The hospice said other options, such as asking people to bring their tree to a designated dump site, has been explored but not deemed feasible.

Christmas trees can be taken to a household recycling centre, or, if you subscribe to a council-run garden waste scheme, cut up and placed in the container provided.

Alternatively the tree could be composted at home by being broken down into smaller pieces and put in your home compost bin.

In relation to refunds, Longfield issued the following statement: "Your donation to the Christmas tree recycling scheme is vital to Longfield Hospice and we are hugely grateful for all donations that have been made.

"Given the unprecedented circumstances that have led to the collection’s cancellation, we hope you might be willing to allow us to keep your voluntary donation to fund the outstanding work Longfield provides in the community.

"However, should you wish to request a refund, please email refunds@just-helping.org.uk with your name, address, contact details and transaction ID and Just Helping will get in touch with you as soon as possible.

"Any refund requests need to be made by Friday 22nd January 2021 and Just Helping will endeavour to return donations by the 31st January 2021."