Town at a crossroads: Draft blueprint to shape Harrogate’s future is revealed

Months of consultation have resulted in a 16-page draft business plan.
Months of consultation have resulted in a 16-page draft business plan.

The team behind potentially one of the biggest step forwards for the Harrogate economy and its retail sector in decades say the town is at “a crossroads.”

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After months of consultation involving shop visits, telephone calls and workshops, BID leaders this week sent out a 16-page draft business plan to 440 local businesses spelling out the potential benefits of turning Harrogate into a Business Improvement District.

The Harrogate BID task group says businesses effected will get their chance to voice their opinion in a crucial vote this November.

But the result of the ballot will be far from academic, says the chair of BID, former Harrogate mayor John Fox who is also chairman of the Harrogate at Christmas Group.

He said: “Like many of our towns and cities today, Harrogate is at a crossroads. It needs to refresh but achieving that will present challenges.

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“The BID initiative is designed to deliver shared plans for a town that is proud of its heritage but needs to find new ways of prospering in an increasingly competitive world with unprecedented commercial pressures.

“We’re asking everyone to embrace the opportunity for greater input, influence, control and self determination.”

If the result of the BID ballot is a ‘yes’, all businesses will pay an annual levy of 1.5% of the ratable value of their business, though anyone with a ratable value of less than £20,000 will be exempt.

The BID levy would raise more than £500,000 for five years, the summary shows.

But the task group, whose key stakeholders include Harrogate Borough Council, Harrogate District Chamberof Commerce and North Yorkshire County Council and team members including senior figures from Marks & Spencer, Victoria Shopping Centre and Bettys, says the resulting £2.5 million would be spent on imaginative improvement projects and comprehensive new marketing and promotion campaigns.

John Fox said: “Harrogate has weathered past storms and remained prosperous and a desirable place to do business but it is increasingly clear that the challenges facing both the Town Centre as a whole and those for individual businesses, small and large, are mounting.”

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“Harrogate BID will be a business body that will ensure the town is responding to these challenges.

“It will be a body with teeth. Our plans will be achievable and demonstrate value for local businesses.”

More than 300 BIDs have been set up so far across the UK, though their activities have proven controversial in some places.

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Well-known figures already backing Harrogate BID include James White, centre manager at Victoria Shopping Centre; James Thomlinson, manager of Harrogate’s Crowne Plaza Hotel and Peter Jesper, managing director of Jespers.

Depending on the views of the rest of Harrogate’s business and retail sector, the Harrogate BID will go into operation early in 2019.

Which shops do the public want to come to Harrogate? Turn to pages 8-13 for our latest Town Centre Survey findings.