Council reject Lib Dem proposal to retain 'civic heart' of Crescent Gardens

Harrogate council's Crescent Gardens

Harrogate council's Crescent Gardens

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Harrogate Borough Council has overwhelmingly rejected proposals to retain the centre of their Crescent Gardens offices following their £9m Knapping Mount move.

In a letter to the Harrogate Advertiser on February 25, Lib Dem leader Coun Pat Marsh urged the council to keep the 'civic heart' of the building when it is eventually sold off.

The building is due to be re-marketed in the next few months with estate agents valuing it between £2-5million early last year.

However, at a Full Council meeting on Wednesday, March 2, Coun Marsh argued that the council should retain the civic centre while allowing the two wings to be converted into apartments.

At the council meeting, Coun Marsh said: "We have been opposed since day one to the council moving out of this building but unfortunately I have to accept that we have lost this battle.

"Now, are are left with a little window of opportunity for the people of this district to say what we would like to see done in future.

"My group would support retaining the Council Chamber, Mayor's Parlous and the stairway where we can display the huge amount of civic silver that sits in our vaults.

"What better place to display the silver than this fine building. This is all in our hands and we have the opportunity to keep some civic history."

However, the leader of Harrogate Borough Council, Coun Richard Cooper, quickly dismissed the idea and the 'back of a fag packet analysis' behind it.

He said: "Clearly the financials don't stack up, it will cost us money to run this place in the way you describe.

"I haven't seen any business plan or any financials behind this back of a fag packet analysis, but it's not even as good as that.

"Where would we display the silverwear? What would the insurance be? Are we going to put paintings on the stairs where people walk to get to their apartments?

"The motion has the best of intents at heart but it should have been done earlier. We can't base changing an entire police on the basis of a letter in the paper last week."

The council has already started work building a new state-of-the-art office complex despite the sale of Crescent Gardens failing through in November last year.

Despite this, Harrogate Borough Council's cabinet member for Tourism, Economic Development and Enterprise stressed the move was 'progressing extremely well'.

Coun Graham Swift said: "I'm disappointed to hear this motion because members have been briefed regularly about all of the aspects of moving offices to Knapping Mount.

"People have been warned that amendments cost money. To hear people suggest to us that we consider these bizarre considerations is surprising.

"The last thing we need is another civic building standing unused or running at a loss when we are trying to raise money."

Coun Swift warned members that the council would not be able to attract sufficient commercial interest should they split the building into three separate units.

He stressed that the council would also need to spend money on the upkeep of the building before members voted overwhelmingly in favour of dismissing the amendment.