Council's new step towards moving Harrogate Christmas Market to a different location

The team behind Harrogate Christmas Market are facing what they most feared this week - a potential move to a new location with the involvement of different organisers.

Thursday, 12th August 2021, 9:53 am
The leader of Harrogate Borough Council, Coun Richard Cooper, said: “The he-said-said-she-said Punch and Judy show between the council and the former Christmas Market organisers isn’t getting us any further forward."

In its latest attempt to clear the air and end the unsavoury wrangling, Harrogate Borough Council yesterday issued a new statement which included pledges that:

The market will happen this year but it will be to the betterment of Harrogate town centre itself.

New event organisers have been in contact and have expressed an interest.

The door is still open to, what it describes as, 'former organisers' to explore possible alternative locations.

The leader of Harrogate Borough Council, Coun Richard Cooper, said:

“The he-said-said-she-said Punch and Judy show between the council and the former Christmas Market organisers about the feasibility of Montpellier Hill, isn’t getting us any further forward. The public are bored of it. It’s time to move on.

“What is important is that Harrogate hosts a safe, vibrant and attractive Christmas market bring more people into our town to shop in our fantastic independents stores, sample our amazing cafés and restaurants and set cash registers ringing.

“So we are moving the conversation on to focus only on that goal now. Fortunately, a number of event organisers have been in touch, with one in-particular showing great enthusiasm to bring their business and expertise to Harrogate town centre this Christmas. And why wouldn’t they with all that we have to offer?

“From today we are formalising that discussion.

“We are also keeping the invitation open to the former organisers to explore alternative locations and discuss those with us, for the betterment of town centre trade. And put the previous disagreements behind us all.”

Harrogate’s business world, which supports Harrogate Christmas Market, will be waiting to find out not only where the event might move to but whether the original organisers decide to grasp the council’s olive branch.

While the council is on record as having pushed in recent years for the Christmas Market to move to its prefered location in the town centre, organisers up to now have not budged on the issue.

Earlier this week, the current organisers questioned whether any alternative town centre site would be able to meet the security and evacuation requirements any better than the Montpellier Hill site.

And the hardworking Christmas team team reiterated there belief that there was no suitable alternative site in the town centre which would allow the public to see shop windows and have space to shop in any relocation.

Harrogate Christmas Market directors including Brian and Beryl Dunsby and Steve Scarre, said: “The main benefit of the Montpellier Hill location in terms of safety is that it is open on all sides - so if one area is crowded with visitors, the public can move to another area that is quieter.

“We also 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 may be organisers of the hugely popular event have been expecting the worst.

Their recent warning to market traders who would be affected by any move and/or cancellation of the market spells out their feelings of the grave threat they feel the market is under.

They told traders: "We regret to inform all pre-booked Market Traders that the Harrogate Christmas Market may not go ahead this year unless we can convince Harrogate Borough Council to reverse their recent decision.

"We seek your continued support whilst we try to convince the council that we are using the ideal site with all the required safety measures in place.

"We have not been able to find an alternative large enough site near the town centre."

Whatever happens next, whichever decision the organisers of Harrogate Christmas Market make after so many successful years at Montpellier Hill, one thing is certain, they had better be quick.

The Harrogate Advertiser understands an initial meeting over a move to the town centre may take place as early as next week.