Christmas Market breakthrough hopes as meeting is set up between Harrogate council and current organisers

Organisers say a potential breakthrough in the stalemate over the future of Harrogate Christmas Market will see a meeting take place with Harrogate Borough Council.

Friday, 13th August 2021, 5:07 pm
Harrogate Christmas Market - Brian Dunsby OBE said the meeting would discuss the option of alternative locations and outstanding anti-terrorism and Covid safety issues over the existing Montpellier Hill site.

The directors of the hugely popular market say they hope the meeting will take place next week with Harrogate Borough Council's Alison Wilson, Head of Parks and Environmental Services and Lib Dem Coun Pat Marsh after the latter got in touch to resolve the bitter dispute ignited by the council's decision to refuse a licence for the event's usual site on Montpellier Hill.

Brian Dunsby OBE said the meeting would discuss the option of alternative locations an outstanding anti-terrorism and Covid safety issues over the existing Montpellier Hill site raised by the council and the emergency services.

Mr Dunsby said: "“We have offered to meet the senior council officer Alison Wilson, Head of Parks and Environmental Services, to discuss potential other locations.

"Provided that if none is found suitable then we need to address the real reasons for refusing a licence to hold the event as usual on Montpellier Hill and St Mary’s Walk."

Harrogate Borough Council confirmed to the Harrogate Advertiser that it was due to meet with the organisers to discuss the future of the Harrogate Christmas Market which can attract up to 80,000 visitors over its four days each year.

A spokesperson for Harrogate Borough Council said: “Our decision to refuse a licence for Montpellier Hill has not changed.

“The meeting next week is an operational meeting for council officers to discuss alternative locations the organisers could consider to hold a safe and successful Christmas Market.

“This offer has been open to the existing organisers throughout the licensing process and since the Montpellier Hill licence was declined.

"We are pleased he has decided to accept this longstanding offer.”

Coun Pat Marsh's intervention saw the local Lib Dem leader break from her holiday after the news of the threat to the existing market left her "upset and saddened that this annual event would not be going ahead."

Coun Marsh said: "Together we can make sure this special event goes ahead. Harrogate needs this market, it is a part of Harrogate's events calendar and we cannot and should not loose it, as long as those involved remain focused on ensuring the event happens.

""I was on holiday I heard about the Christmas Market being denied its licence to be on Montpellier this Christmas. I felt very upset and saddened that this annual event would not be going ahead.

"As soon as I got back from holiday I contacted the Council to see if a meeting could be set up to resolve the issue, either by getting the event licensed or looking for alternative sites.

"The council kindly agreed to this way forward, as did the Christmas Market organisers, so a meeting has now been set up for early next week and I hope that both sides come to the meeting open minded."

The seeming end of the stalemate follows council leader Coun Richard Cooper's toughening stance on the issue earlier this week when he made it clear the council was ready to start talks with different organisers to relocate Harrogate Christmas Market if there was no breakthrough.

Coun Cooper said: "The he-said-said-she-said Punch and Judy show between the council and Christmas Market organisers about the feasibility of Montpellier Hill, isn’t getting us any further forward. It’s time to move on.

"A number of event organisers have been in touch, with one in-particular showing great enthusiasm to bring their business and expertise to Harrogate town centre this Christmas. From today we are formalising that discussion.

“But we are also keeping the invitation open to the former organisers to explore alternative locations and discuss those with us, for the betterment of town centre trade. And put the previous disagreements behind us all.”

But Mr Dunsby and the current organisers of Harrogate Christmas Market remain convinced that, in terms of safety and security, all the right things can be done to ensure Montpellier Hill ticks all the boxes to enable it to take place there as normal for four days in late November.

In a statement issued by the market's directors last week, Mr Dunsby said theybelieve that there is no viable alternative location near to the town centre – which is vital in terms of attracting visitors into the town centre. ​

Since it was first launched on Montpellier Hill in 2012 to raise money toward the town’s Christmas Lights, Harrogate Christmas Market has proven a huge crowd-pleaser each November on the Stray at Montpellier Hill.