Civic group hits back on Harrogate's 'decline' controversy
A senior member of Harrogate's leading civic group has defended the town after a controversial report last week by the Harrogate Advertiser on a 'summer of discontent.
After a growing number of readers used phrases such as “shameful and tatty” and “profoundly depressing” to describe the town they live in, Harrogate Civic Society's Henry Pankhurst said the town was still bursting with civic riches, talent and future potential.
Mr Pankhurst, a committee member responsible for planning matters, which was set up to enhance the character and amenities of the town while protecting and preserving all the best of the past, said Harrogate did have problems but he for one wasn't leaving any time soon.
He said: "Every town and city in Britain suffers from various aspects of pockets of poverty, crime and disorder, empty shops etc. "But I do not believe that any one person could list all that can be appreciated, enjoyed, taken advantage of or taken part in, in Harrogate. "I have lived in Harrogate for more that 40 years and see no reason to move.
"We are fortunate have the Stray with the great privilege of an Act of Parliament to help us to and look after it."A million people a year visit Valley Gardens? How fortunate we are to have a Parks Department who do a marvellous job on diminishing resources."I never cease to be amazed at the number of such societies that this fairly modest-sized town provides and the skill and dedication of their members. The standard of performance is frequently very high.
"We have two orchestras, several bands, musical societies, dramatic societies & various choirs which give endless scope for enjoyment in terms of taking part and of entertaining the public. "How fortunate are we also to have our own thriving Harrogate Theatre which is the venue for a huge variety of professional performances from the Comedy Club, the best pantomime anywhere to Shakespeare and everything in between."Many of the amateur performances also take place in this excellent venue.
"We also have a very extensive conservation area. Why is this? "Clearly because of the quality of a great deal of our built environment, often more appreciated if we look up rather than at our feet or in the shop windows. "That's not forgetting the inside of many buildings, for instance the Royal Hall, the room in Wetherspoons that was the entrance to the long demolished Peat Baths or the foyer/grand staircase/council chamber of our now empty Crescent Gardens Offices.
"But the advantages of Harrogate are wider than that. How about our schools? I believe all our schools to be excellent. "What more positive a benefit can there be than a good education? Many students travel considerable distances to attend them.
"We also have Mercer Art Gallery. The exhibitions mounted here are not just for our town but are of regional and national importance."Of course, more space could easily be used for the 'in-house' collections and for special exhibitions."