Council say they must "learn lessons" from Valley Gardens' StrEat Food festival

Damaged grass in the Valley Gardens
Damaged grass in the Valley Gardens

Harrogate Borough Council has said they "must learn lessons" from The StrEat Food festival after admitting to underestimating the event's popularity.

More than 110,000 visitors packed into Harrogate's Valley Gardens for the festival but, despite its success, concerns were raised over damage done to the grass.

Following the festival, the council's gardening team were forced to fence off the damaged grass and reseed it, prompting calls for it to be moved next year.

During a Council meeting on Wednesday, Coun Michael Harrison, cabinet member for Environment, Waste Reduction and Recycling, said the "balance" must be right when holding future events.

"The fact that more than 110,000 people attended indicates the event was a success from a visitor and organisational perspective," Coun Harrison told the meeting.

"Clearly we do need to welcome the fact that people want to run events. However, there has been negative press about the damage that has been caused.

"This event, I don't mind saying far exceeded the expectation of the organisers and I think exceeded expectation of the council. The weather did not help the damage to the grass.

"We do need to learn lessons from this event, if it does get repeated to structure it differently and any event to make sure we get the balance right."

Coun Harrison told the meeting that the council made a £3,081 surplus from the event, with income coming from a hire fee and the organisers meeting labour charges for litter duties and repairs to the grass.

However, the council were forced to use some of this income to pay for the parks team to completely reinstate the grass as well as collect leftover litter.

The council have now said they are "determined" to put measures in place to prevent any future harm to the Valley Gardens but Coun Harrison stressed there was a risk involved in hosting any major event.

He said: "Any event the council supports is clearly done to promote visitor numbers to support residents and businesses and generally promote the vibrancy, vitality and sustainability of the district.

"The fact that 110,000 people came to a brand new event tells us there is an appetite out there both from an organiser's perspective and from the public, residents or visitors.

"But all events will have some negative impact somewhere, whether that be noise, traffic anti social behaviour or in this case some damage to grass.

"It's not just us about us making a profit but clearly commercially we have an interest. We need to get balance right of people who want to run these things, the benefit to the council and benefit to taxpayer and vibrancy to the district."