'Peace' meeting fails in dispute over Harrogate Christmas Market's future location

Harrogate Borough Council says it will begin talks with a new organiser for Harrogate Christmas Market after a meeting with the existing team failed to achieve a breakthrough.

Tuesday, 17th August 2021, 2:57 pm
A Harrogate Borough Council spokesman said: “Despite our best efforts, the organisers of Harrogate Christmas Market still believe that there are no alternative locations that are suitable for a Christmas market in Harrogate town centre."

Today's meeting between the currrent organisers and council officers follows council leader Coun Richard Cooper's toughening stance on the issue which has seen him making it clear that council was ready and willing to start talks with different organisers to relocate Harrogate Christmas Market if there was no solution to the current impasse.

One of the market organisers, Brian Dunsby OBE, said earlier he hoped the meeting with officers would include a discussion of the outstanding anti-terrorism and Covid safety issues over the existing Montpellier Hill site raised by the council and the emergency services - as well as the possible option of alternative locations.

Organisers even went into the meeting this morning armed with their own analysis of the pros and cons of a long list of possible alternative sites for the market, from Valley Gardens to Victoria Avenue, the Stray at Oatlands Drive to Hornbeam Park.

But both sides today appear to have remained firm in their core beliefs, the council saying this afternoon that Montpellier Hill is totally out of the question as a location for the event, while the existing organisers insist it is worth at least exploring how the existing site could be made safe and secure for it to happen as planned this November with stalls and traders already lined up.

A Harrogate Borough Council spokesman said: “Despite our best efforts, the organisers of Harrogate Christmas Market still believe that there are no alternative locations that are suitable for a Christmas market in Harrogate town centre.

“At a meeting this morning, officers discussed a number of viable alternative locations but these have been refused.

“The organisers also tried to use this opportunity to pursue conversations over the viability of Montpellier Hill and the submitted event management plan.

“Our decision on Montpellier Hill still remains.

“The event plan submitted does not fully take into account the risk of overcrowding and necessary evacuation procedures, counter-terrorism measures and the ongoing risk of Covid-19.

“It is also apparent, following this meeting, that there are numerous other concerns that still haven’t been addressed.

“Therefore, we must now move forward to ensure Harrogate hosts safe, vibrant and attractive Christmas festivities this year."

The council spokesperson continued: “Another event organiser has approached us with great enthusiasm to bring their business and expertise to Harrogate town centre this Christmas. "And we will now actively work with them to help formalise that discussion.

“The invitation to Mr Dunsby and colleagues is still open and should they wish to submit a plan for an alternative location then we suggest they do so as soon as possible.”