I first came to Harrogate for a job interview on August 1, 1995. I came from Huddersfield.
I will never forget that moment after driving past the Leeds Road Parade of shops and through the St George’s roundabout when the Stray seemed to appear from nowhere around me. It was that moment that decided me whatever the outcome of the job interview that I wanted to make Harrogate my home.
Since then, like other residents and visitors, I have enjoyed and admired our Valley Gardens particularly but also the many other wonderful spectacles of the district - the Pinewoods, Ripon Spa Gardens, Coldstones Cut near Pateley Bridge, walks along the River Ure near Boroughbridge and Kirby Hill to name a few.
Like many I know that our district needs tourism to thrive - that’s both business and leisure tourism. When our hotels and guest houses are full our towns and city are busier, our economy is more vibrant and our famed independent traders are more successful.
We need to use our area’s attractions to stimulate that visitor economy; to bring new people here; to make sure they tell friends, family and colleagues what a super place this is and then come back here again and again.
But I know that with big events comes a degree of disruption. Last week’s letters page featured some letters highlighting damage done to the Valley Gardens during one event. I know too some businesses have not felt the benefit of events which have led to street closures even for a few hours.
These things are a delicate balance and delicate balances are always the most difficult to achieve. Desirable though it is to bring bigger events to our district why would they come if many of those things that make our area unique are spoiled by the event that preceded them?
So, as we learn from our renewed emphasis on super-charging our local economy through stimulating tourism we will ensure that all those things that make our area unique are preserved and enhanced. Sometimes we won’t get it quite right and when we don’t we will seek to get it right the next time.
I live in Harrogate town centre. I work in Harrogate town centre. There is barely a week when I don’t walk through the Valley Gardens.
I am not going to allow them to be spoiled because, as someone who came here over 20 years ago, they are the things that made me - and I expect thousands of others - stay here.
So I take our duty of care to our award-winning parks and gardens seriously and, when agreeing their use, the council will have protocols in place and will do what is necessary to ensure that damage is avoided and wear and tear are put right swiftly.
Coun Richard Cooper
Leader of Harrogate