As the debate continues, I felt obliged to submit my view on the suitability of Valley Gardens as a venue for next years StrEAT festival.
I live on Valley Drive. The gardens are essentially my back garden and I love them dearly.
I am also a huge advocate of using them to host events and have enjoyed seeing the increased use of this special place over the last 18 months or so.
The BIG Picnic, 1940s weekend, Happygate and Fire Garden were all examples of fantastic events that generated lots of support and took advantage of a stunning setting to bring considerable enjoyment to many.
However, in each instance they either attracted fewer visitors or lasted for a shorter period of time and consequently caused vastly less damage than StrEAT.
I thought the food festival was wonderful and visited every day. I certainly want to see it back in town next year. However, the atrocious weather on the Saturday made me immediately anxious because I could see what was inevitably going to happen - carnage.
The damage was bound to be significant and lasting. And I support the Friends of Valley Gardens wholeheartedly when I suggest that perhaps it isn’t the right place for a repeat event.
There is only so much footfall that any outdoor space can contend with and that, combined with typical British weather means that unless assurances can be made to avoid the same mistake (such as ground protection mats), they need to look elsewhere.
These gardens are amongst the most beautiful public parks in England and we need to recognise and respect that.
We are immensely fortunate to have such a space and should absolutely use it for public events - but in moderation. It’s not as though we’re short of outdoor space in Harrogate, so why don’t we use it a bit more intelligently?
And don’t get me started on the farcical decision to use the smallest grassed area in town for the claustrophobic Christmas market every year!
Valley Drive, Harrogate