‘Why is this being thrown away?’ Experienced businessman on Harrogate Christmas Market's future
Harrogate Civic Society committee member Granville Simpson said, as a businessman himself, he knows just how successful Harrogate Christmas Market has been and how it has always been flexible in its operations.
In response to news that organisers have been denied a licence by Harrogate Borough Council to hold this year's event at the usual spot on Montpellier Hill, he gives his inside story of the market from its earliest years.
HARROGATE CHRISTMAS MARKET
VIEWS OF A TOWN CENTRE RETAILER
By Granville Simpson, former owner of The Rocking Horse in Westminster Arcade, and current committee member of Harrogate Civic Society
"Harrogate was losing out at the key period running up to Christmas by not having a market to offset the draw Leeds and York had.
"The Chamber of Trade and Commerce was intent on having a market that supported local and regional traders.
"The emphasis was to have a diverse range of products of high quality and value.
"Key was to have a site that was as close as possible to the Town centre to encourage visitors to explore what Harrogate had to offer.
"Montpellier Hill, being an open air site with access and exit points all around, was the answer. The criss crossing of metalled footpaths facilitated good access to the stalls.
"The take up of stalls was encouraging and within a very short time the Market was establishing itself as an important asset to the Town.
"As the Christmas Market progressed over the years, the success at peak time was causing traffic problems and, at some risk, it was agreed with the council to move the start date earlier, avoiding the clash with other events at the Exhibition Halls area.
"This worked well: my own business usually peaked late November.
"We were meeting these figures some two weeks earlier and did not dip, maintaining this high level into December.
"Throughout the duration of the market, cafes, pubs and shops experienced a dramatic uplift in business.
"The town was buzzing. The evening view of the market from the War Memorial was magical.
"At its peak we reckoned on some 60,000 visitors to the town, giving a crucial boost to Harrogate’s economy at an important time of the year.
"Unique to this Market, were the scores of volunteer help: checking on traders; well-being; on-hand to advise visitors; help marshal the good running of the event. "A community involvement, enhancing the welcoming image of the town.
"So please explain to me why all of this is being thrown away, with no reference to anybody outside of the immediate Council?
"I thought we were governed by consent. Alas, not in Harrogate."
By Granville Simpson,