Relieved Knaresborough Bed Race organisers are celebrating winning a generous rethink from Harrogate Borough Council over plans to increase charges for holding this year’s event.
Shocked by the sudden hike in costs, Knaresborough Lions protested to the council with support from Knaresborough councillor Anne Jones and Knaresborough Town Council.
They argued the increased charges would not only punish a popular community event in its 52nd year which was designed to raise money for charity but that the issue had initially been handled in an insensitive way by the council.
But Knaresborough Lions secretary Nigel Perry said the Lions were delighted by the compromise move.
He said: “it’s excellent news. We are delighted and would like to thank for being reasonable. Thanks, too, to everybody who interceded on our behalf - councillors, bed racers and people in Knaresborough.
“There are still things to sort out but Harrogate council are clearly supportive of the needs of the event and the aims of the Lions in raising money for local good causes.”
But the situation did not look so positive when the Lions first heard of the council’s original plans,
Nigel Perry said: “With other linked Harrogate Borough Council charges, the Bed Race was facing a cost of £2,450 or more for 2017 compared to £20 in previous years.
“After last year’s Bed Race a representative of Licensing at the council said we had to pay more for a ‘Premises License’.
“HBC Parks Directorate told us at the end of last year that they have acquired a premises License for the year which they turn over to us at a cost of £1,000.
“We tried negotiating but got nowhere.
“On 22 March at a meeting with Parks we were told we now have to pay £1,127 plus VAT (£225) to hire the land at Conyngham hall for the day. We have never had to pay this before and there has been no consultation or warning.
“There is an alternative: that we give up charging entry to Conyngham Hall grounds but that is currently worth £7,500 to £8,000 to Bed Race charities a year.
“None of these charges cover making good damage. We already pay a £1,000 returnable bond - £500 last year and before - but we have always repaired any minor damage that has occurred and collect all rubbish
from Conyngham ourselves. So the bond always gets returned.
“Before the police withdrew their willingness to close the roads to traffic in 2009, the event used to costs £8,000 to put on. It now costs over £20,000 a year to stage.”
Harrogate Borough Coun Anne Jones, who represents the Scriven Park Ward and is also a county councillor for the Knaresborough Division, said she was acting in her capacity as ward councillor for the area which includes Conyngham Hall said she was glad common sense had prevailed.
She said: “I was deeply concerned for the welfare of Bed Race and the people of Knaresborough who organise it, take part in it and turn out to enjoy it.
“I have always been a great supporter of the Lions and the Bed Race. It is such a unique and important event.”
Patrick Kilburn, head of parks and environmental services at Harrogate
Borough Council, said the council was pleased to rethink the charges to help the Bed Race.
He said: “The Bed Race is a fantastic community event which raises a significant amount of money for good causes.
“As in previous years, other than the £46 administration fee, Harrogate Borough Council will not be charging the organisers for using the Conyngham Hall area of town, which is owned by the council.
“As with all events of this nature, the organisers need to ensure they have an appropriate events licence in place, which for an event this size is a Premises Licence. Harrogate Borough Parks has such a licence which we have offered to transfer to the organisers at the licence transfer fee of £46.
“National licencing laws set a statutory charge for events so it is not at the discretion of the council to waive these charges. Where there are greater than 4,999 people in attendance at any one time there is an additional fee of £1,000.
“The event organisers will be responsible for managing the event, and as long as the number of people in attendance at Conyngham Hall does not exceed 4,999, there will not be a requirement to pay any additional fee.”
The Lions say the Bed Race is an essential contributor to its charity account surplus which donates £16,000 to £24,000 each year for Lions charities.
In addition, it is estimated Bed Race teams race £40,000 for their own local charities.
Knaresborough Chamber of Trade estimated in 2013 that Bed Race Day was worth £350,000 to town centre businesses.