Lib Dems criticise Harrogate council on Crescent Gardens sale

Harrogate's opposition Lib Dems party have attacked the council over its handling of the Crescent Gardens sale and demanded to know the costs of the whole five-year saga.

Monday, 20th January 2020, 9:48 am
Updated Monday, 20th January 2020, 10:02 am
Critical of Harrogate Borough Council - Coun Pat Marsh, the Lib Dems leader on Harrogate Borough Council.

Responding to the announcement last week by Harrogate Borough Council that Impala Estates, a family-owned property investment business, had purchased Crescent Gardens in a £4 million deal, Coun Pat Marsh, the Lib Dems leader on the council, criticised the absence of any civic role for the historic building under the new proposals.

Writing to the Harrogate Advertiser, she said: "We are saddened that the building will not have a civic presence.

"This has been a lost opportunity to retain the centre of the building to create maybe a space to exhibit the history of our Town and the retention of the Mayors parlour.

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"The Lib Dems have fought long and hard to retain the building as our Civic Centre by suggesting an extra storey, a complete refurbishment and a reconfiguration, this would have achieved the needs of Harrogate Borough Council by bringing all services under one building and retaining a civic building we would have all been proud of.

"We welcome the prospect that the building is to be brought back to life and not being left to deteriorate any further but mourn the loss of a beloved building to the residents of this district."

Cabinet member Coun Graham Swift has already said he was delighted at the success of the marketing campaign and by the new buyer’s plans to regenerate the historic site into a multi-let office space.

The council’s deputy leader said: “The proposed plans will ensure that this high quality local asset is regenerated to deliver a building that provides much-needed office space in the town centre and provide community benefits that keeps Crescent Gardens as a vibrant addition to Harrogate town centre.”

But Coun Pat Marsh demanded the council reveal the cost of the whole process which began in 2014 when Harrogate Borough Council first announced Crescent Gardens was for sale as it prepared to a move to a new home at the environnentally-friendly, purpose-built Harrogate Civic Centre.

She said: "We are pleased to see, at last, that Crescent Gardens has been sold and that money is in the bank.

"However, this has been a torturous journey and we are sure that the Public would like to know the cost of this.

"There has been two failed sales and three agents employed to sell the building and there has been a cost of keeping the building going for the last two years, utility costs, rates, staff costs, repairs and maintenance.

"The public should be made aware of the bottom line figure not just the headline figure."

The Crescent Gardens sale to Impala Estates, which was secured by property firm Sanderson Weatherall of Harrogate, will include the iconic building, itself, which housed the council’s main offices and the Mayor’s parlour for nearly a century until two years ago, and the parking bays on the road directly opposite.

As to how the re-marketing of Crescent Gardens was handled after the troubled situation with previous developer Adam Thorpe's company, over the site's future, the council said all bids received were carefully considered and assessed against specific criteria including deliverability, preservation of a local asset, as well as the growing demand for office space in the town.