OPINION: Take pride in Harrogate, the jewel in Yorkshire’s crown - Matthew Chapman, Harrogate BID
Since taking up my post just short of five months ago, an awful lot has happened. And when asked to write this column, I thought long and hard about how I could distil it all into a specific word count.
Should it be about my regular meetings with levy payers and what they expect from Harrogate BID (Business Improvement District)?
Or should it be about the success of the recent family-orientated Lego Model Trail, which drew thousands of participants to streets across the town to see all eleven models?
Or perhaps about joining forces with Harrogate charity Disability Action Yorkshire and traders on Commercial Street to make the town more accessible to those in wheelchairs would make a good topic?
And then I considered raising a glass to this week’s Harrogate Beer Week, which we are delighted to be sponsoring, or even the launch of the town’s first pop-up ping pong parlour in Victoria Shopping Centre, where people can come into town to play table tennis on one of four tables, for free.
The launch of the LoyalFree app, and how it’s benefitting levy payers who are able to upload special offers etc free of charge, was also a strong contender. But in the end, I’ve decided to share my thoughts on three areas that have really stood out for me.
Pride is the first. It is superb to see, hear and meet so many people passionate about living, working and visiting Harrogate. Whilst not coming from town, but being a regular visitor over the years and now being based centrally (first floor Victoria Shopping Centre overlooking the plaza) I too am soaking in this pride.
As said in my first column, the BID is not Harrogate Borough Council or North Yorkshire County Council, it does work closely with them, and builds on a number of the services they provide. We are all about making a positive change with our campaigns such as deep cleans, weeding, the extra floral displays, reporting issues, and helping lobby for positive change. So this word, pride, resonates with me strongly.
The second is expectations. Harrogate is rightly known as the ‘jewel in Yorkshire’s Crown’ and is a key destination for business and leisure tourists and day trippers. And when you consider just what Harrogate has to offer – The Stray, spa heritage, classy shops, great restaurants, top notch hotels, fantastic leisure and event spaces – who can blame them for making a beeline to us.
We should, and do, deliver a friendly, welcoming, safe, stylish and different offering. The BID is supporting this with additional teams on the street, street murals, inward investment, match-funding, car parking and public transport discounts, and campaigns to promote Harrogate.
The third is unique. Harrogate is distinctive, and rightly so. Whether it be the exclusive history, classy traditions or quirky groups and collaborations, Harrogate stands out from the crowd. We are working hard to enhance this hard-earned but deserved reputation through a number of initiatives, including hosting and supporting events that bring different audiences into the town. The Harrogate Gift Card – which makes a great Christmas present – helping to keep the spend local and boost our economy.
Of course, there are areas we could always improve in, and to be that dazzling jewel we need to be constantly one step ahead of the game. First impressions count, and cleanliness is high on our list of objectives.
In the next few weeks, we are hoping to introduce a town centre street ranger, whose role is to ensure our streets are kept looking spic and span. And finally, the mural on Cross James Street has sparked so many positive comments and has given this drab walkway a real lift. This is a great example of the ‘additionality’ we have already brought, and what we intend to bring over the coming months and years.