Disappointment at council office response

Harrogate’s Lib Dems have said they were disappointed by the low response to the council’s recent public consultation on the proposed office move.
NADV 1306188AM3 Council offices. Knapping Mount.  (1306188AM3)NADV 1306188AM3 Council offices. Knapping Mount.  (1306188AM3)
NADV 1306188AM3 Council offices. Knapping Mount. (1306188AM3)

Over 57 per cent of the 822 people who responded to the council’s public consultation supported the option to relocate from the current five offices to one purpose built site at Knapping Mount at a cost of around £9million.

However Harrogate Lib Dems, who have long opposed the plans, said the turnout was too low to be a ringing endorsement of the Knapping Mount proposals.

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Harrogate Borough Council (HBC) Lib Dem Group Leader, Coun Philip Broadbank (Starbeck) said: “If you take out the staff who answered the consultation, there were actually only 625 responses.

“Of these, 51 per cent were for the preferred option and 49 per cent were for the non-preferred option. Hardly a ringing or conclusive endorsement of the scheme.

“It’s difficult to see how objective such survey questions can be in eliciting a balanced response from members of the public when the questions involved such terms as preferred option.”

The Conservative leader of Harrogate Borough Council Richard Cooper (High Harrogate) said: “It was a well promoted public consultation. We delivered 45,000 leaflets encouraging people to take part and held public events all over the district.”

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He added that seven public events were held in June and July and information was sent to dozens of voluntary organisations and groups including the Civic Society and Chamber of Trade.

During the 10-week public consultation, a response proposed that new purpose-built offices could be built at Hornbeam Park and the council’s external property consultants are now looking at this option.

Deputy Leader of the Lib Dem Group, Coun Helen Flynn (Lib Dem, Nidd Valley) said: “It just seems reckless to go ahead with any scheme when there is so much uncertainty. We need to be proactive in determining what our council will look like before such large and costly decisions are taken.”

UKIP County Coun David Simister (Bilton and Nidd Gorge) has questioned how HBC will afford the new development. He said: “The council can not only find £9 million to relocate to a new site, but also £40,000 to make new street lights look like our Victorian lampposts, and, after pulling the plug on Rossett Sports Centre, announces it is continuing its funding. One question remains , where is the council suddenly getting all its money from?”