Is troubled £3m Harrogate business group set for brighter 2020?

Harrogate’s independents look set to lead a complete revolution at the top of the troubled £3 million Harrogate BID launched less than 12 months ago with the goal of reviving Harrogate town centre’s fortunes.

Friday, 13th December 2019, 4:10 pm
Updated Friday, 13th December 2019, 4:23 pm
Family-run shops - key members of Independent Harrogate William Woods, left, and Robert Ogden.

Another tumultuous week for Harrogate Business Improvement District (BID), whose direction has been under fire from ‘indie’ traders for some time, has seen:

The election of a brand new BID board with better representation for non-chain shops

The announcement that BID chairman John Fox is stepping down

Bringing indie spirit to Harrogate BID - key members of Independent Harrogate William Woods, left, and Robert Ogden.

The advertising of the vacant post of BID manager at a salary of circa £45,000

The departure of Harrogate BID’s original manager, Elizabeth Murphy, who quit in October after only three months, may have signalled the start of the current period of turmoil.

But the events of the last seven days may hint at a potential happier ending for BID after a troubled first year.

One of the new members of the board elected by businesses, Robert Ogden, who is also a leading member of 170-strong pressure group Independent Harrogate, said BID needed to work on behalf of all the businesses who paid a levy for its projects.

Mr Ogden, of the well-known family-run Harrogate jewellers, said: “I am grateful that we have been given the opportunity to represent independent businesses on the BID board.

“The BID needs to serve Harrogate on behalf of all of its levy payers.

“It is great news that the board now contains representatives of some of the key organisations involved in the town.”

The first meeting of new-look board, whose 15 members also include, significantly, Chris Bentley, one of the town’s major commercial property owners; Sarah Ferguson of Sasso restaurant and Robert Kennedy, owner of G23 menswear shop, will take place in early January.

One of its key jobs will be to pick a new chair and come up with a stronger direction for a body whose budget, in theory, ought to be enough to make a difference in tough times for Harrogate’s retail sector.

Departing BID leader John Fox has already announced the launch of a new free cost-savings advice service to BID levy payers in January.

But Robert Ogden, said the future of the town centre rested on BID taking a much more inclusive and open approach in general.

Mr Ogden said: “There is no doubt in my mind that as an organisation with funds to spend on regenerating Harrogate the BID can play a major part heading a town ‘team of all the talents’ to restore Harrogate to its former glory as a destination of high quality, with fantastic shops, hotels and restaurants and a thriving visitor economy.

“But the key to success will be open and transparent dialogue with Harrogate’s businesses, and also a close working relationship with many other organisations including local councils, Independent Harrogate, Harrogate Convention Centre, Harrogate and District Chamber of Commerce and the tourism board.”

News of John Fox’s decision to step down as chair of Harrogate BID led to a series of fulsome tributes for his efforts from local business figures.