Original Harrogate Christmas Market team accepts cancellation of event but vows to return in 2022
Organisers of Harrogate Christmas Market have bowed to the inevitable and accepted they cannot now hold this November's planned event on Montpellier Hill. But they are already contemplating a new bid to bring the popular annual event and its 80,000 plus visitors back in 2022.
Theie pledge comes despite Harrogate Borough Council's determination to hold a major festive event this year with a new set of organisers in a different town centre location.
The council believes it was faced with no choice but to refuse a licence for the Christmas Market's usual location ar Montpellier Hill after a decade of success there because of the advice it received from emergency services in North Yorkshire about perceived weaknesses of the site in terms of counter-terrorism security and Covid safety.
One of the original team of organisers, Brian Dunsby OBE confirmed to the Harrogate Advertiser that it was correct to say that they were now planning to apply to bring back the proper Harrogate Christmas Market in 2022 but that they recognised that the council was not going to let their market happen this year.
In full: The latest statement from Harrogate Christmas Market organisers Brian L Dunsby, OBE, Organiser; Beryl Dunsby, Director; Steve Scarre, Chair
"We are very sorry to announce that the planned 9th Harrogate Christmas Market due to be held on 18th-21st November 2021 has had to be cancelled because the Council will not issue a licence for it.
"Harrogate Borough Council Executives will not meet us to discuss the issues they have identified in our 2021 Event Plan for the Christmas Market to be held at the Montpellier site despite our various requests to do so.
Their representatives did meet us, but they would not enter into discussion nor offer any practical solutions.
"The Council has still have not detailed their reasons for refusal of a licence for this location, when it has been held very successfully on this site for the past eight years. We have now seen the responses of the emergency services and we sincerely believe that we could have overcome all their reservations. Likewise, we have now seen the detailed responses from the Licensing Team and from their external consultants and again we felt that we could have overcome most, if not quite all of their reservations, given the opportunity and time to do so.
"We have sent the Council a selection of the many emails received from Market Traders and Coach Operators expressing their disappointment at the Council’s refusal to allow the traditional Harrogate Christmas Market to be held again on our usual Montpellier Hill site this year.
"One of our Traders says: “I do not know of any Christmas Market in a town that has the area fenced off and searches people entering. Surely fencing the area off would increase the risk of crushing if the area had to be cleared quickly, people being forced to leave by a restricted number of exits. Under the current open plan layout the area could be cleared quickly. The town centre wouldn't be any more secure, has multiple access points, you can't put fencing round the town centre and search everyone entering. The town centre has less accessibility for emergency vehicles especially when there are marquees and gazebos on site.
"The Council are damaging local businesses and small artisan makers/stallholders who are struggling to recover after Covid. The "shop small shop local" is a big thing still and the National Press like a story that shows the "little man" (or in this case little businesses) being bullied by an unfair council.”
"The small alternative event that the Council is arranging in the Town Centre in December will in no way compensate for the loss of trade for our many local businesses – or for the loyal Market Traders who are now feeling rejected by Harrogate, despite our best efforts to accommodate them safely.
"The Council Executives have made it quite clear that they will not reconsider their decision to withhold a licence for the Montpellier Hill location for 2021 no matter what we could have done to satisfy their concerns. It is now probably too late for us to contact all of our Traders and Contractors again.
"We are already considering our position with regard to an application for 2022 and/or 2023."