Council and organisers at loggerheads in Harrogate Christmas Market dispute

Harroghate Borough Council and the organisers of the Harrogate Christmas Market find themselves at loggerheads as both sides refuse to budge in a dispute which threatens the future of the successful annual event.

Tuesday, 10th August 2021, 10:37 am
Updated Tuesday, 10th August 2021, 10:38 am
Harrogate Christmas Market organisers are complaining that the council has turned down their request to meet to discuss its decision to refuse a licence for the event's usual site on Montpellier Hill.

The latest row in a dispute which shows no signs of being resolved, organisers, including Brian and Beryl Dunsby and Director and Chairman of Harrogate Christmas Market Limited, Steve Scarre, are complaining that the council has now turned down their request to meet to discuss its decision to refuse a licence for the usual site on Montpellier Hill.

But Harrogate council rejects the new accusation, saying it would be happy to meet if organisers had not already refused to discuss alternative sites for Harrogate's money-spinning four-day festive event.

Harrogate Borough Council leader Coun Richard Cooper said: "We haven't refused to meet with the organisers of Harrogate Christmas Market.

"We have refused to discuss the Montpellier Hill site as the events plan submitted by organisers is deemed unsafe and organisers are refusing to amend it.

"We will accept an invitation to discuss other sites in the town centre."

At the heart of the matter is the council's decision, based it says on expert advice from police, ambulance and fire services, that the market's usual site is not suitable for contingency plans in an era of terrorism threats and the Covid pandemic.

The council claims the plans by organisers of this year's Christmas Market were assessed as inadequate in safety terms by the police, the ambulance service and the fire and rescue service as inadequate in safety terms.

The council has made it clear it is willing to consider holding an alternative to the Christmas Market in its preferred location - Harrogate town centre - partly to bring the event closer to shops and traders.

Harrogate Borough Council leader Coun Richard Cooper said: "We refused a licence to use the land based on what the police, the fire service and the ambulance service told us.

"I want to see a market in Harrogate centre this Christmas but the council has refused a licence for the use of Montpellier Hill based on the plans submitted.

"That is because the plans were assessed by the police, the ambulance service and the fire and rescue service as inadequate in safety terms.

"It is those emergency services that have said we shouldn't be holding the event in that location with the plan submitted and based on that we can't grant a licence to hold an event which the emergency services have said is unsafe."

But organisers say they been able to find an alternative large enough site near the town centre for the market and that the event may not go ahead this year unless it can convince Harrogate Borough Council to reverse its recent decision.

They say they are hoping to be granted a one-year licence for the event this year before discussing possible new sites for 2022 with the council.

But, in a sign that their position on the matter is as firm the council's, they have also warned that the very name "Harrogate Christmas Market" is a trademark and it must not be used for any alternative event by Harrogate Borough Council.

A statement this week from the directors of Harrogate Christmas Market reads:

"We believe that there is no viable alternative location near to the Town Centre – which is vital in terms of attracting visitors into the Town Centre.

"The shopping streets in the Centre are all too narrow or short to accommodate Traders stalls as well as shoppers. It would be unfair to block the view of the shop windows and their entrances.

"Also Harrogate Christmas Market comprises a family funfair and live reindeer together with Father Christmas.

"If the Council wishes to arrange a much smaller event then they are at liberty to do so – but they must not call it a Harrogate Christmas Market – which is our registered Trade Mark.

"We are asking for a one-year licence for 2021 after which we will sit down and go through all the alternative locations again with the Council Officers concerned, as we have done in the past."