Letter: Right scheme ‘critical’ for Harrogate council offices

Harrogate Council Offices. (1401142AM6)

Harrogate Council Offices. (1401142AM6)

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I write to comment on last week’s letters from Henry Pankhurst of the Civic Society regarding redevelopment of the town hall, and from Andrew Hart on the subject of the refurbishment of the cenotaph.

Mr Pankhurst mentioned the Royal Hall Restoration Trust’s scheme for the area around the Royal Hall.

While the Trust is not yet at liberty to publish its proposals,

I can state that it is privileged to have had the services on a pro bono basis of two of the UK’s finest architects: Julia Barfield who designed and conceived London’s Millennium Wheel and the elevated walkway in Kew Gardens amongst other notable projects, and Peter Owens who drew up plans for the London Olympics water park and who is currently dealing with the exterior design and landscaping of the Doha World Cup site.

They and the Trust, in consultation with HIC, have been working on an exciting proposal for further development behind the restored Royal Hall, as well as looking at how this iconic building can be placed back into something of its original landscaped setting and be made a destination in its own right.

The proposals include substantial alterations to the layout of Crescent Gardens. The Trust believes the proposals are realistic and capable of being funded in the medium term.

I should add that the Trust’s Patron, HRH the Prince of Wales, takes a keen interest in architecture and has asked to see the designs.

It is of course critical that the right scheme is chosen for the town hall redevelopment: one that is sympathetic to the town hall, Royal Hall and other neighbouring buildings and to Crescent Gardens and which enhances the appeal of Low Harrogate.

It is important the council chooses a design which is beautiful, rather then generating the maximum financial return as an end in itself.

In response to Mr Hart, I should add that one of the Trust’s architects has also been looking at the area around the cenotaph. The Trust feels that the existing Peter Brett Associates proposals can be improved on and that a fresh look at both the cenotaph and Parliament Street (albeit without pedestrianizing the latter) is needed.

Floodlighting and (as Mr Hart suggests) cleaning the cenotaph would be a start: not only would people feel safer at night, but sympathetic lighting of the obelisk and pediment would be a fitting centenary tribute from the town to those who gave their lives for their country.

Russell M Davidson

Chairman

The Royal Hall