Calls to delay any decision on the future of Harrogate’s new £9m council base have been dismissed by the authority’s leader.
A consultation is set to close this week on proposals to either sell off Harrogate Borough Council’s Crescent Gardens base and build a new one at Knapping Mount, or consolidate into three sites.
The much-debated proposals would save money in the long run, say officials, but opposition members have branded it a waste of taxpayers’ cash in such austere times. Now, in the final days of the consultation, 90 members of the Harrogate Chamber of Trade and Commerce have called on the council to defer any decision.
Debate is ongoing in the county over a potential switch from two-tier to unitary status, with a decision set to be made after next May’s General Election. And, as the future of the authority is still uncertain, chamber members say the decision over Harrogate’s base should be delayed.
“Transferring to unitary status is not just a rumour; it is a very realistic possibility which is likely to happen within the next seven years,” said former chamber president Sandra Doherty, adding that if a unitary authority was introduced, it could be based in Harrogate and would therefore need more space.
“Whatever happens, there will be no progress until after the General Election next May, so trying to force a decision before then seems reckless and illogical,” she said.
Council leader Richard Cooper, (Con, High Harrogate), said the issue has already been much debated.
“I do not believe the issue of unitary authorities should delay the decision over the future of HBC’s office accommodation,” he said. “There is currently no clearly-stated Government policy to introduce unitary local government. With this in mind, I do not believe we should delay a decision which will ultimately help the council be more efficient, providing residents with a better service and saving money.
“Should there be a move towards unitary status at some point in the future, we would be better placed to achieve this transition with modern purpose-built office accommodation.”
Harrogate Borough Council (HBC) is currently based over five sites in the town.
The ongoing consultation considers two options - the council’s preferred one of relocating to a new purpose-built headquarters at Knapping Mount at a cost of £7.9m to £8.9m, or consolidating down to three buildings at a cost of around £4.8m. The consultation closes on August 4.