On Air Now

Nick Hancock

6:30am - 10:00am

Now Playing

Nik Kershaw

Wouldn't It Be Good

Council set to drop £57m Harrogate Convention Centre redevelopment

Senior Conservative councillors are set to drop a proposed major redevelopment of the council-owned Harrogate Convention Centre.

Council set to drop £57m Harrogate Convention Centre redevelopment Senior Conservative councillors are set to drop a proposed major redevelopment of the council-owned Harrogate Convention Centre. The council blamed spiralling building costs which has seen the cost of the project jump from £49m to £57m. But there is also an acceptance that it would not be able to afford it as the authority faces a £41.6m deficit in its budget this year. It also failed in a bid to win Levelling Up money from the government that would have helped to pay for the project. HCC director Paula Lorimer has come out against the redevelopment, arguing it would be counter-productive to shut the venue whilst works take place. She warned this could see lucrative events never return to the town once it’s complete. Senior Conservative councillors are expected to officially scrap the project at a meeting next Tuesday. The HCC opened in 1982 with conferences and events providing a boost to the town’s bars, restaurants and hotels. Over 150,000 visitors come to the HCC a year with upcoming events including the Harrogate Bridal Show and the Local Government Association annual conference. The council helps to fund it with a £2.7m annual subsidy and the facility has struggled to turn a profit for decades. However it argues the HCC contributes £45m a year to the wider Harrogate district economy. According to the report, the venue has also had a resurgence post-Covid with bookings increasing by 28% and a healthy outlook predicted for the next 12 months. HCC management will also be buoyed by the news first reported by the Yorkshire Post last week that Leeds City Council has paused plans to build a rival convention centre in Leeds. North Yorkshire Council’s executive director for finance, Cllr Gareth Dadd said:

“The convention centre is a very important venue for both Harrogate itself and the county’s wider economy, and we are therefore committed to ensuring that it continues to play a key role in the future. “However, all major projects are being affected by the high rates of inflation and the rising costs of materials and labour. “We need to make sure that we are providing the best value for money for residents and businesses across North Yorkshire, and we will carefully consider the options that are available for renovating the Harrogate Convention Centre. “We need to decide how best to take the re-development plans forward while protecting the impact that would have on the public purse and the economy of the town.”
What happens next? Despite proposing to drop the redevelopment, the problem of what to do with the HCC will not go away for the council. The venue is spread across a vast estate on King’s Road and has sky-high running costs as well as being one of the highest contributors of carbon emissions in the whole county. It’s also showing its age with many electrical, heating and plumbing systems in need of replacement. The report accepts there is still a need to invest in the facility but says it must be done in a way that avoids shutting large parts of it for significant periods. Ms Lorimer is a proponent of creating new break-out spaces for conference delegates, which she believes could attract significant additional income each year for the venue. But the overall message of the report is clear. It suggests that without investment from either the public or private sectors, the future of the HCC, as well as the town’s bars, hotels and restaurants that depend on it, is bleak. By Thomas Barrett, Local Democracy Reporter Read more local stories from Your Harrogate here.

More from Local News