Harrogate Christmas Market under further jeopardy as Council say they won’t discuss a licence for Montpellier

10 August 2021

In what is rapidly becoming a carry-on movie by Harrogate Borough Council, they have now said that “they have no desire to discuss the existing location of Montpellier Hill” and then went on to criticise the organisers for not discussing the additional measures that may be needed for it to go ahead there.

The lack of clarity around the situation is further highlighted by one quote saying they have no desire to discuss the location”, but yet the leader of the Council, Richard Cooper has said “As the event organisers are yet to address any of the concerns raised about the event taking place on Montpellier Hill a meeting to discuss this would be pointless” – that is giving a very mixed message.

Harrogate Borough Council are certainly not working in a Christmas spirit of making the event happen, or in the best interest of the town. They are working to stop the market happening in Montpellier, given they have closed down all negotiation around it.

You would expect that there would be an open door to make this proven and well-run event happen. The more the debacle carries on, the more it looks like that this was a plan set in place by Harrogate Borough Council to stop the Christmas Market, so that the hoops being set to jump through by the organisers were impossible, and could be just used as a lever.

The organisers have said that they are actively working to make the Christmas Market happen, for the benefit of the town.

Brian Dunsby, from Harrogate Christmas Market, said:

It is very disappointing that Harrogate Borough Council won’t now even talk to us about the Christmas Market.

Some of what they are saying is just misleading and incorrect.

While we acknowledge there are changes to be made, the council have now cut off discussion.

Harrogate Borough Council have said they won’t now even consider a licence for that part of the Stray, it is not clear if that is even in their powers as custodians of the Stray and the Stray Act to do that.

Andy Jupp, a trader at Harrogate Christmas Market said:

As someone who has traded at the market for many years, my sense is this : Harrogate is extremely fortunate to have the christmas market that it does.

It is as idiosyncratic as the town, and a rarity in its atmosphere, charm, and indeed its structure as a not for profit venture borne from a love and appreciation of the unique character of Harrogate.

I trade all across the UK and further afield, and it is with relief and excitement that I come to the Stray each year to meet such lovely traders and customers.

It is unblemished by quangos, delivered by hard working people of integrity and vision. We should not look back and say ” oh, do you remember the christmas market, how lovely it was ?

Please embrace it, nurture it, work with it. It is a fine asset to a magnificent town, a town built on the enterprise and hard work that is reflected and celebrated through the market.
I sincerely hope that whatever needs to be resolved is resolved.

Harrogate Christmas market is a community market of the best type, and without it, the town would be poorer.

Cllr Richard Cooper, leader of Harrogate Borough Council, said:

As we’ve said previously, the decision not to grant a licence – for the location of Montpellier Hill – was based on the event management plan that we received from the organisers.

This plan did not fully take into account the risk of overcrowding and necessary evacuation procedures, counter-terrorism measures and the ongoing risk of Covid-19.

We have had numerous conversations with the event organisers to encourage them to address these concerns over the years, and we recognise that progress has been made.

However, significant safety issues still remain.

Cllr Richard Cooper believes that the organisers haven’t taken the feedback from HBC seriously, and they simply want the event to carry on as it is. The organisers have said that is not the case, but HBC are no longer willing to talk to them.

Cllr Richard Cooper said:

This shows that they are not taking the feedback seriously enough.

They have also failed to address the fact that there is no adequate medical plan for the event, there is no control over the numbers entering and existing the market, unsuitable fire safety equipment and a lack of clarity on qualified first aiders, to list but a few of a long list of concerns.

If the council did grant a licence based on the submitted event management plan and, God forbid, an incident happened and someone was hurt, suffered life-changing injuries or worse, was killed, the question would then be ‘why did the council allow this event to happen?

I would rather listen to the feedback from the emergency services now than be explaining to bereaved families why I did not.

As the event organisers are yet to address any of the concerns raised about the event taking place on Montpellier Hill a meeting to discuss this would be pointless.

We have emailed the organisers asking for their assessment of alternative locations. And we are happy to discuss those with them.

But the safety of residents, traders and visitors must come first.

I want to reassure town centre businesses that it is the council’s strong intention that there will be Christmas festivities this year.

The organisers of the previous markets aren’t the only Christmas market organisers.

And we have already received expressions of interest from another organisations who want to bring their business and expertise to Harrogate. I hope to be providing an update on these discussions very soon.

The Harrogate Christmas Market has grown over the years with a loyal group of traders, that speak well about the market, both in how it is run, and the business benefit. But that is just part of the picture, as there is also thousands of potential coach bookings, along with the full infrastructure for Montpellier (power, ground protection, wifi etc).

The Christmas Market are now  putting together a full rebuttal over the claims made by HBC.


  1. Utter vitriol, I’m not the council’s biggest fan but in this case … HBC have a duty of care to the general public and I’m actually pleased they have started to take this responsibility seriously. The site in previous years was, in my opinion, unsafe, too compact and overcrowded. Luck is the only reason no one has been hurt before now. One small fire, a stampede to get out and before you know it Harrogate Informer would have been reporting on the numbers of dead and injured and criticising the Council for not enforcing H&S standards. Add in the Covid risks in a confided space and the situation just gets worse. There are plenty of other location options elsewhere in the town and there are plenty of other event organisers who can deliver a Christmas market in a safe, professional and responsible way. Instead of moaning to the press about the Council, the orgainising committee whoever they are should perhaps be reflecting on their own inability to meet basic public safety standards.

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