Red-faced council chiefs have been forced to send back “Britain's saddest Christmas tree” after locals were left so shocked they thought it “was a joke”.
The partially brown 16ft spruce, which seemed to be missing several branches, was erected in the centre of St. Helen’s, Merseyside, earlier this week.
But locals were left fuming at the sub-standard conifer, with one claiming that they’d been given “the worst” tree in England for two years in a row.
Residents also joked that it might be a re-potted version of last year’s festive failure, which was so bare the only light on the tree was the sun shining on it.
Meanwhile, others branded the fir “disgusting” and called for more spending on Yuletide celebrations.
The tree has been branded a 'laughing stock' after it was put up in Church Square earlier this week, with one resident saying he thought it was a prank.
Embarrassed officials from St Helens Borough Council later accepted that the spruce did “not meet our standards” and agreed to replace it within 24 hours.
One wrote: “If it hadn’t have been so poor last year, I’d have agreed it was a mistake this time around. I think the council chanced their arm on a cheap tree… again.
“Surely someone saw it and picked it out? And surely it would have some resemblance when unpacked?
“The Norwegians manage to get a decent one all the way to Trafalger Square every year without incident!
“It isn’t ‘important’ per se, but things like this are a visual representation of the town at large. Last years was uninspired, lacking effort and depressing. I think we all deserve better.
Another angry resident added: “Disgusting. Typical St. Helens council trying to line there own pockets as per usual instead of spending money on the town or the towns people.
“I’m not surprised the council are a laughing stock and no one trusts them anymore.”
A further local said: “The poor tree looks like its been dug up years ago ..might even be last years tree that had tried to be replanted and sadly failed to thrive for this year ...if they fork out on LOADS of lights it will shine I'm sure .....”
While another resident added: “Two years in a row we have probably the worst in England”.
This year’s ill-fated tree follows controversy over St Helen’s previous Christmas fir, which had no lights after the council decided to forgo illuminations for it all together.
At the time, Resident Paul Whittaker, who took a picture of the sun peeking through the spruce’s leaves, joked that it was “the only light” that would featured on the sad tree.
But it seems local organisers were quick to take note of the criticism this time around after they hastily released a statement saying the tree would be replaced.
A spokesperson said: “Hello everyone, just to let you know we're not happy with this tree either.
“When the tree is unwrapped it is our first chance to look at it too and this does not meet our standards.
“We can assure everyone that this tree will be replaced with a new one in the next 24 hours!”
Rainford's Christmas Trees, who supplied the local fir, added that large spruces don’t always come through the transportation process well and were finding a replacement.
A spokesperson for the business said: "We installed this tree, when it’s in the forest trees look great, when you take them from their natural surroundings, cut them down bale them up, transport them then put them up again, big trees don’t always come through the process that well.
“We recognised this after it was erected and was allowed to open out and immediately organised a replacement.