Like many others I’m sure, I too welcome the news that Harrogate Council has decided not to seek changes to the Stray Act which would have enabled greater commercial use (Advertiser, February 16). But I very much hope this will not mean that the council now starts looking upon Valley Gardens as its preferred venue for major events.
While it may not be protected by an Act of Parliament, I would argue that the Gardens are even less suitable for coping with large crowds. We need to be clear: these are attractive gardens, a park, and an area of woodland; and with the very occasional, carefully-considered exception, should be used exclusively for those clearly-defined purposes.
If Harrogate Council now struggles to find suitable locations to pursue its new agenda of becoming “more commercial”, I would suggest that this is something which should have been properly thought about – and resolved – long ago.
Hosting conferences, exhibitions and other events has been a mainstay of the town’s economy since at least the late 1950s so one would have hoped that over the last 60 years or so the council might have initiated regular reviews to ensure it was keeping properly up to date in serving the leisure needs of both its visitors and, even more importantly, its residents.
Instead, we see increasing evidence of what might be termed the “headless chicken” approach to tourism where the town makes impulsive bids for a wide range of events, some of which don’t appear to adhere to a carefully-considered formula as to what is best-suited for the town.
As your correspondent John White rightly implied (Letters, February 16), we should be looking at manageable events which provide the best possible return on our investment rather than throwing large sums of money at “big name” extravaganzas which don’t necessarily represent money well spent, can be incredibly disruptive and, as was illustrated when Harrogate hosted the ASDA conference earlier this month, we clearly don’t have sufficient parking provision.
I also believe it would help if tourism was fully-controlled by the council. Instead, it has rather bizarrely farmed out primary responsibility for tourism promotion to the largely privately-funded organisation Visit Harrogate, many of whose dealings appear to be shrouded in secrecy.
It is also an unelected body and, as far as the public is concerned, almost entirely unaccountable.