Harrogate Convention Centre forecasts £510,000 profit ahead of decision on major redevelopment

Harrogate Convention Centre has revealed it is forecasting a £510,000 profit this year ahead of a decision on whether a major redevelopment of the venue should go ahead.

By Jacob Webster
Thursday, 6th January 2022, 10:39 am
Harrogate Convention Centre.
Harrogate Convention Centre.

In what is set to be one of its biggest decisions in recent history, Harrogate Borough Council will this summer vote on a potential £47m redevelopment of the venue which is fighting to keep its national appeal.

The latest forecast comes after the convention centre struggled financially during the pandemic when it was used as an NHS Nightingale hospital and also had its bookings severely impacted by lockdown restrictions.

Yet the success of the venue is not always measured on whether it makes a profit, but also its economic impact on the district.

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Councillor Richard Cooper, leader of Harrogate Borough Council, said the convention centre makes a "significant contribution" to the district's economy and should be supported.

He said: "In a typical year – when the calendar is full of events and conferences – it attracts more than 150,000 visitors a year, has an economic impact of £35m and supports thousands of jobs across the Harrogate district.

"Many local businesses also rely on the convention centre for their income. And for every £1 most attendees spend on their event, another £5 is spent locally, benefitting the wider hospitality trade; from the hotels and B&Bs to the many cafés, restaurants and high street businesses.

"By redeveloping the ageing facility, as well as introducing much more flexible spaces, we will be able to attract a broader customer base and substantially strengthen this economic impact, which will be needed even more so in the future as our economy recovers from Covid."

When the redevelopment plans were revealed in 2020, the council said the 40-year-old convention centre is in “critical need” of investment and that there is “very real risk” it will not survive without.

More than £1.5m has already been spent on the plans which if approved will see the project delivered in stages with a major refurbishment of the centre's studio two coming first.

After this, three exhibition halls could be demolished to make way for a new 5,000 sq m hall and a refurbished auditorium.

Councillor Pat Marsh, leader of the opposition Liberal Democrat group on Harrogate Borough Council, said while the party had criticised a "lack of investment" in the convention centre in the past, it was supportive of the latest plans.

She said: "Without investment the convention centre will really fail and the impact on the local economy will be huge. There has been under investment in the last 20 years, so this is long overdue.

"The aim and ambition is for the convention centre to make a profit, as it did when the Lib Dems ran the council.

"If this does not happen then of course a serious review would have to be undertaken."

By Jacob Webster, Local Democracy Reporter