Business Losses in Harrogate – By Colin Tomlinson BEng, PGDip, MSc, LLM, PhD
I have read with alacrity the communications between various interested parties in regards to the UCI and the impact that it has had on local businesses but I think the pomposity of certain council members is disingenuous to local businesses and the local people who have suffered loss and disruption to their daily life’s and businesses.
Firstly, My partner is the General Manager of a Department store in the town centre and I witnessed first hand the impact that isolating streets with barriers, closing the A61 and surrounding areas, and the other disruptive events had on the local businesses and that is not including the costs on motoring or the environmental effect of having standing traffic and additional CO2 emissions around the town for most of the 12 days it has taken to reopen the A61.
As for me, I am an expert in Delay and Disruption related to the Commercial and Construction Industries and my usual forum is in the International Commercial Court. I am also an Arbitrator for the London Court of International Arbitration specialising in Commercial and Construction disputes and intend to use this experience to question the rationale in some of the decisions made in the holding of the UCI event and the impact it has had on local people and businesses.
- The first question should be what was the basis of the decision to hold such an event, was it money, increase in trade, advertising, ? a mixture or none? In that decision was the following considered,
- What due diligence and impact assessment was completed to examine the detrimental effect to local businesses and people or were the determining factors the consideration of the beneficial effects?
- Was a financial assessment of similar events ever completed, what was the effect of the Tour de France on business, was local businesses approached and was a lessons learn meeting organised after the Tour de France to examine the consequence of major events on the town?
- Is it the intention of the Council to hold a lessons learnt meeting with selected businesses, the meeting at the Hotel Du Vin could not classify as anything but a shambles..
- What did the impact analysis of major and minor road closures show, was the local population considered and where is it detailed?
- Does the Council consider it appropriate to restrict access to properties for extended periods for certain individuals in the district and why were the road closures so extensive for so long where in other UCI events roads are left open and only closed for the Major races.
- The reference in the Harrogate Advertiser stating a local Councillor purports that “Initial surveys…suggest that a large majority think the event was a success” is misleading and incorrect. A look at other social media suggest that the margin is a lot closer to 50/50 and articles suggest that a lot of local businesses are rightly or wrongly apportioned the blame for the drop in trade to Harrogate Borough Council.
- This same Councillor also states that “ I don’t need an expert to tell me that appearing on maybe 200 million televisions in 60 different countries for nine days is an amazing advert for Harrogate, the district and Yorkshire” and whilst this may be true I would suggest that expert opinion is exactly what is needed, it is only by careful analysis of all the facts that a decision can be made of whether an event can be construed to be successful of not?
- The metric that “This will have a long-term sustained beneficial effect on tourism in exactly the same way the Tour de France did” could have been quantified in detail, it is my understanding that although the Tour de France may have had a positive impact on the hospitality business, it had a detrimental impact on the retail business within the town if only for one day.
- The observations, quantifications, measures and metrics of the Tour De France and other UCI events could have been the basis of a detailed assessment into an impact analysis which highlighted risk to local businesses.
- As the BBC’s article and news report “ Harrogate: What happened when the shops left town” has showed retail in Harrogate is in crisis, the failure of the Council to properly consider the impact of the UCI event on retail using all available methods and metrics could only be classes as neglectful in the current economic climate.
- Notwithstanding the cost quoted by social media as being exaggerated three statements are worthy of further examination ,
- “the disruption, in his experience, was not as bad as sometimes made out”,
- Suggestions on Twitter and other social media platforms that Harrogate would be unreachable were very wide of the mark particularly with the great public transport opportunities.”
- If people planned their journeys I don’t believe the disruption was generally unreasonable but some very defined areas such as West Park and the Harrogate circuit faced greater challenges”
- In my personal experience it took an additional 25 minutes to get into town in the morning to drop my partner off and 40 mins delay getting out of town in the evening, the delay and confusion around the town is supported by comments on social media.
- As for planning journeys, people have commitments and responsibilities, sometimes these cannot be planned and cannot be altered, the judgement of unreasonable is personal and the belief of a Councillor obviously biased in his opinion should be given little weight in any assessment of disruption to journeys in the local area, this should be independently assessed.
- What is completely disheartening with the statements above is there is little acknowledgement of the issues that people faced, they are depreciated with disingenuous comments personalised with little or no empathy and with an attitude of solipsism woven throughout the selective narrative.
- The continual attitude of the Council can be seen in the following two statements,
- The appointment of Ernst and Young,
- Without minimising what needs to be done, the ground can recover quickly and faster than many would expect. The grass will grow back, and it will be returned to normal.
- The appointment of EY to oversee the quantification of the event is again a slap in the face for local businesses, as with the fan zone the Council has decided that an outside company rather than a local business should profit from the tax imposed on the local community.
- In respect to the Stray, the SDA chairwomen Judy d’Arcy Thompson has said it all.
- As for responsibility for Economic loss, this is a very complex area and misrepresentation be it fraudulent or negligent could have serious consequences for the Council, it may be that the starting point for any action would be to ascertain who was responsible for what and what was duties were included in that responsibility, maybe a Freedom of Information Request should be drafted?
Colin Tomlinson, BEng, PGDip, MSc, LLM, PhD.