Since it was first launched on Montpellier Hill in 2012 to raise money toward the town’s Christmas Lights, Harrogate Christmas Market has proven a huge crowd-pleaser each November on the Stray at Montpellier Hill.
But a decision taken by Harrogate Borough Council on the advice of the emergency services to refuse a licence for its usual location based on security risks from terrorism and health risks from Covid, has left organisers with the dilemma of whether to seek an different site for the four-day event which can attract up to 80,000 visitors, both local residents and coach parties.
Organisers, including Brian and Beryl Dunsby and Director and Chairman of Harrogate Christmas Market Limited, Steve Scarre, say there has so far been no response from Harrogate Borough Council to its request for a hearing about the concerns over the Montpellier Hill site and any proposed solutions.
What's more they do not believe that there is a suitable alternative available and are warning that the very name "Harrogate Christmas Market" is a trademark and it must not be used for any alternative event by Harrogate Borough Council.
Although organisers are clearly determined to stick to their guns in the dispute, they say they are still hoping to be granted a one-year licence for the event this year before discussing possible new sites for 2022 with the council.
Today's statement from the directors of Harrogate Christmas Market reads:
"We are still waiting for a response from the council's chief executive Wallace Sampson and council leader Richard Cooper to our request for a meeting.
"We believe that there is no viable alternative location near to the Town Centre – which is vital in terms of attracting visitors into the Town Centre.
"The shopping streets in the Centre are all too narrow or short to accommodate Traders stalls as well as shoppers. It would be unfair to block the view of the shop windows and their entrances.
"Also Harrogate Christmas Market comprises a family funfair and live reindeer together with Father Christmas.
"If the Council wishes to arrange a much smaller event then they are at liberty to do so – but they must not call it a Harrogate Christmas Market – which is our registered Trade Mark.
We are asking for a one-year licence for 2021 after which we will sit down and go through all the alternative locations again with the Council Officers concerned, as we have done in the past."
Organisers have also been updating market traders who would be affected by any move and/or cancellation of the market.
They have told market traders: "We regret to inform all pre-booked Market Traders that the Harrogate Christmas Market may not go ahead this year unless we can convince Harrogate Borough Council to reverse their recent decision.
"We seek your continued support whilst we try to convince the council that we are using the ideal site with all the required safety measures in place.
"We have not been able to find an alternative large enough site near the town centre."