As grumbles grow in a 'summer of discontent', a new volunteers group called Friends of Harrogate Town Centre has been set up to help tackle concerns that the town has lost its sparkle.
The new group is spearheaded by the Harrogate District Improvement Trust, Harrogate Borough Council and Harrogate in Bloom and also involved 17 other existing community and voluntary groups.
They will collectively come under the umbrella of 'Team Harrogate' - all with a common aim to make Harrogate a place everyone wants to live, work and/or visit.
The majority of these groups partner with the council supporting its work in areas such as the Valley Gardens, the Pinewoods, Stonefall Park and Hookstone Wood. And since 1989 Harrogate in Bloom has worked with the council to maintain the town’s reputation for horticultural excellence.
Lynne Mee of the Harrogate District Improvement Trust and Harrogate in Bloom said: “Harrogate continues to be an attractive town but it is not immune from 21st century pressures. There is increasing concern from a number of quarters that Harrogate is in danger of losing its sparkle.
"Whilst public bodies are tackling the big issues of begging, anti-social behaviour and homelessness, it is believed this new Friends group will give focus to other smaller issues such as clean streets, pulling weeds, picking litter and removing flyposting. "
The Friends of Harrogate Town Centre had its inaugural event yesterday Monday, 29 July when representatives from the main groups involved were out in force giving a final ‘spit and polish’ to the town centre before Britain in Bloom judging this Thursday, August 1.
Organisers emphasise that the individual groups which make up Team Harrogate now and in the future will remain as single entities - as indeed will Harrogate in Bloom. They will continue with their own individual aims and objectives being responsible for their own projects, activities and funding.
The idea originated in 2015 when the concept of Team Harrogate was piloted for the Yorkshire in Bloom awards 2015.
The aim was to bring together the various groups under this one umbrella by completing the entry form as 'Team Harrogate' so it is clear to the judges that Harrogate's entry is a joint effort.
Harrogate has won Britain in Bloom more than 30 times since it first started entering in the late 1970s.
In the coming weeks, the Friends of Harrogate Town Centre will be establishing a proper structure and action plan which will feature in further articles and with an invitation for others to join it.
Lynne Mee of the Harrogate District Improvement Trust and Harrogate in Bloom said: "We will be doing simple measures which we can all get involved with or avoid doing.
"But you will be surprised at how much better the town will look if we tackle them and put pride at the forefront of everything we do whether a resident, a business or a tourist.
"That said, it doesn’t mean the Friends won’t be prepared to get involved with bigger initiatives such as persuading landlords to look after their empty properties keeping them clean and tidy as recently, and sadly, this isn’t always the case.”
The new initiative for Harrogate town centre follows weeks of reporting by the Harrogate Advertiser of a 'summer of discontent' triggered by readers expressing a raft of concerns over the what they said was the decline of the town centre.
Complaints included empty shop units, roadworks, County Lines crime and incidents of anti-social behaviour, arson and violence.
The final straw for many was an increase in visible street begging and the shortlived arrival of a mini tent village on Oxford Street.
Harrogate Borough Council leader Coun Richard Cooper, who in weeks has personally led teams of volunteer local councillors to pick up litter and deal with weeds in town centre streets, said: “It is encouraging to see the launch of this group and the recognition that we are all in this together.
"With regular task groups and working parties these Friends will make a huge difference. I will be personally joining the Friends group and where possible will provide extra manpower fro the council as well as helping with equipment such as high viz vests, litter picks and bin bags as we do for other Friends groups around the district.”
Harrogate remains the only town ever to have twice won Europe in Bloom.
The groups which make up Team Harrogate
Harrogate in Bloom, Harrogate Borough Council, Friends of the Valley Gardens, Pinewoods Conservation Group, Harrogate District Biodiversity Action Group, North of England Horticultural Society (Harrogate Flower Shows), Harrogate and District Allotments' Federation, Bilton Conservation Group, Harrogate Civic Society, Harrogate District Chamber of Commerce, Horticap, Rossett Nature Reserve, Woodfield Millennium Green (Millie's Green), Hookstone and Stonefall Action Group, Bachelor Field Friends' Group, Woodlands Community Group, Rossett School.