On Air Now

Nick Hancock

6:30am - 10:00am

Now Playing

Black Eyed Peas

I Got A Feelin'

Convention centre boss warns big events 'at risk' unless major refurbishment is accelerated

Director of Harrogate Convention Centre has warned the venue and local economy will miss out on big events unless plans for a major refurbishment are accelerated.

The director of Harrogate Convention Centre has warned the venue and local economy will miss out on big events unless plans for a major refurbishment are accelerated. Paula Lorimer said upgrading the centre’s studio two needed to be done as a priority as it would be a “game changer” once completed. Speaking at a meeting of Harrogate Borough Council’s cabinet on Wednesday, she said this part of the centre currently has limited “breakout” space and that this has meant it has been unable to attract “larger and more lucrative” events. She said:

“We are lucky to have one of the largest and most gorgeous auditoriums in the country with just over 19,000 seats, but we only have breakout space for 570 people. “These larger conference rooms that we are hoping to have in studio two will mean we will attract much larger conferences. “We therefore believe there is a very strong case to accelerate this part of the project.”
The project has yet to receive a final go-ahead from councillors and could cost up to £47m over three phases if approved. It was revealed at Tuesday’s meeting that the plans have already been delayed due to the Covid pandemic, with a report warning that this could have an impact on contracted and potential events booked from April 2023 onwards. It also said there is an “important event” planned for early 2023 which will require the works on studio two to be completed, however, the council said it was unable to confirm the details as it is not a public event. The report added:
“If the studio two package is not ready by April 2023, the potential negative impact on the Harrogate Convention Centre order book would be significant. “It is highly likely that the newly contracted events for the period 2023/24 would be lost. “It also runs the risk of not being able to bid for these conferences again until post 2025.”
The plans were first revealed in July last year when the council said the 40-year-old centre was in “critical need” of an upgrade to keep its national appeal and that without investment its maintenance costs could reach £19m over the next two decades. It was estimated before the pandemic that the centre attracted more than 150,000 visitors a year with an annual economic impact of £35m. However, Covid has now raised questions over how quickly the industry can bounce back to pre-pandemic levels and what risks this could mean for the potential £47m redevelopment. A final decision on the project will be made by councillors next year and the council has yet to put forward any funding proposals, although it said a business case would play a key part in supporting bids for government cash. At Tuesday’s meeting, it was agreed that a further report would be brought back to cabinet to decide whether the works on studio two should be accelerated. It was also agreed that further design and feasibility works are continued. Other plans as part of the project could involve three exhibition halls being demolished to make way for a new 5,000 sq m hall and a refurbished auditorium. Around £20m would be needed to complete a first phase of redevelopment, with another phase later. By Jacob Webster, Local Democracy Reporter Read more local stories from Your Harrogate here.

More from Local News