Lib Dems slam 'embarrassing lack of investment' in Harrogate Convention Centre in past
Harrogate and Knaresborough's Lib Dems have welcomed council plans for a £1 million upgrade of Harrogate Convention Centre but criticised as "embarrassing" what they say has been the lack of investment in the past.
Councillors are to be asked at a meeting next week of Harrogate Borough Council’s cabinet to back a root-and-branch freshen-up of facilities at Harrogate Convention Centre in a sign the town is determined to win back its place at the top table for conferences.
Harrogate Borough Council regards redeveloping Harrogate Convention Centre, which was hailed as a futuristic building when it was first opened 40 years ago, as central to its plans to support the recovery of the local economy as the pandemic hopefully eases.
Coun Graham Swift, Harrogate Borough Council’s cabinet member for economic development, said: “Harrogate Convention Centre makes such an important contribution to the district’s economy.
“It is central to the viability of many hundreds of businesses and our recent experience of lockdown shows just what a positive difference it makes locally.
“It will also enable us to create a unique facility we can all be proud of which also attracts new events to Harrogate, the district and North Yorkshire.”
This very public show of confidence in the convention centre has been largely supported by local opposition politicians but with a sting in the tail.
Lib Dem leader Coun Pat Marsh said: “For too long there has not been the kind of investment required.
"The convention centre’s decline and lack of facilities has, at times, been embarrassing and not conducive to maintaining existing customers let alone attracting new business.
“If we are to attract more business we can only do it with a facility which offers 21st needs and standards.
"We have no option but support the proposal.
"The alternative is to let the convention centre continue to deteriorate, then no one will want to come and the centre will have to close its doors.”
Although the convention centre may well be closed for at least another six months as it continues to play a key role in hosting NHS Nightingale Hospital, Harrogate council is determined to maximise visitor spending as normal life starts to return.
But the Lib Dems are raising the issue of the economic cost of Harrogate's hosting of the hospital built to cope with any surges in coronavirus.
Judith Rogerson, Harrogate & Knaresborough Lib Dems, parliamentary spokesperson, said the financial aspect of the convention centre's role in the hospital had to be addressed more seriously.
She said: "My immediate concern is to get Harrogate Convention Centre up and running again as soon as possible given how vitally important it is to our wider local economy.
"I'd also like to see meaningful compensation from the Government to cover losses incurred whilst it has been out of action as a Nightingale Hospital.
"Once things start to return to normal, we need to make sure that the facilities on offer are the best possible quality so that Harrogate is seen as a first class centre for the conference industry. "
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