Business planning contract awarded for £47m Harrogate Convention Centre redevelopment

A business planning contract has been awarded for the redevelopment of Harrogate Convention Centre in another step forward for the potential £47m project.

Thursday, 12th August 2021, 9:43 am
Updated Thursday, 12th August 2021, 9:44 am
Harrogate Convention Centre is 40-years-old and the council says it is in "critical need" of upgrades.

Harrogate Borough Council' s director of economy, environment and housing, Trevor Watson, approved the agreement on Tuesday following a competitive tender process during which the council only received a single bid for the business planning works.

The value of the contract and the bidder are not yet known - and both will only be made public once papers have been signed by both parties.

A council spokesperson said: “This decision, to award a contract to support the Harrogate Convention Centre redevelopment project, marks a significant step forward in our major investment.

“Harrogate Convention Centre makes such a significant contribution to the district's economy by bringing visitors and investment.

"And this investment will deliver a major component of the Harrogate town centre masterplan and will be key to the district’s Covid-19 economic recovery plan.”

The business planning works include the creation of a full business case, as well as assessments of the economic impacts of Covid on the events industry.

It was estimated before the pandemic that the convention centre attracted more than 150,000 visitors a year with an annual economic impact of £35m.

However, Covid has now raised questions over how the industry can bounce back to pre-pandemic levels and what risks this could mean for the £47m redevelopment.

A final decision on the project will be made by councillors next year and the council has yet to put forward any funding proposals, although it has said the business case would play a key part in supporting bids for government cash.

Rebecca Micallef, economy and transport officer at the council, said in a report: "Harrogate Convention Centre is a vital economic driver for the Harrogate district and wider region, providing a unique offer for the conference and exhibition market.

"Funding has not yet been identified for the delivery of the proposed redevelopment and this work will play a crucial part in supporting bids for external funding.

"The work will look in detail at the wider economic impact of the redevelopment proposals on Harrogate, the district and beyond and help us to better understand the implications of Covid-19 on the industry and therefore the case for investment."

The convention centre was used as an NHS Nightingale hospital for almost a year and it was partway through the pandemic when the council revealed its redevelopment plans.

In July last year, the council said the 40-year-old venue was in "critical need" of an upgrade to keep its national appeal and that without investment its maintenance costs could reach £19m over the next two decades.

Before this week's contract agreement, a separate, £1m contract was awarded to design firm Arcadis in March and the company is currently drawing up design proposals.

Plans to rebuild the convention centre could involve three exhibition halls being demolished to make way for a new 5,000 sq m hall and a refurbished auditorium.

Around £20m would be needed to complete a first phase of redevelopment, with another phase later.

By Jacob Webster, Local Democracy Reporter