The meeting lasted 1.5 hours and hasn’t led to moving the situation forward.
Harrogate Borough Council have distanced themselves from the market and continue to reverse to discuss any issues around the market being held on Montpellier. HBC is insistent that there are alternate locations, but can not say where those locations are.
There is a very hands-off approach from the council, whereas in previous years they had worked much more with the organisers.
HBC only want to receive event plans, reject them, and insist they are resubmitted, rather than helping to make the current event plan work, feeding in their concerns.
Brian Dunsby speaking on behalf of the Harrogate Christmas Market organising committee:
We are amazed at the Council’s rapid publication of such a hostile statement following our positive meeting with Council Officers Rachel Joyce and Alison Wilson this morning.
We went through our detailed analysis of the pros and cons of ten alternative locations in or near the Town Centre without finding one that could possibly accommodate the existing Harrogate Christmas Market with nearly 200 stalls, a Craft & Gift Marquee, Santa and his Reindeer and a Children’s Funfair.
Discussion then turned to how could we overcome the remaining concerns raised by the Council over the long-standing location on Montpellier Hill.
We felt that the discussion was promising, and we undertook to revisit all the outstanding issues raised by the police, fire and ambulance services following last actual event in 2019, which have been promised to us – together with other issues raised by the Council concerning the risk of overcrowding, necessary evacuation procedures, counter terrorism measures and the ongoing risk of Covid-19. We have undertaken to revise the Event Plan and resubmit it for further assessment which we hope will be positive.
If the Council wishes to invite an alternative organiser to put on Christmas Festivities in the Town Centre during December then that would be up to them.
A council spokesman said:
Despite our best efforts, the organisers of Harrogate Christmas Market still believe that there are no alternative locations that are suitable for a Christmas market in Harrogate town centre.
At a meeting this morning, officers discussed a number of viable alternative locations but these have been refused.
The organisers also tried to use this opportunity to pursue conversations over the viability of Montpellier Hill and the submitted event management plan.
Our decision on Montpellier Hill still remains.
The event plan submitted does not fully take into account the risk of overcrowding and necessary evacuation procedures, counter-terrorism measures and the ongoing risk of Covid-19.
It is also apparent, following this meeting, that there are numerous other concerns that still haven’t been addressed.
Therefore, we must now move forward to ensure Harrogate hosts safe, vibrant and attractive Christmas festivities this year.
Another event organiser has approached us with great enthusiasm to bring their business and expertise to Harrogate town centre this Christmas. And we will now actively work with them to help formalise that discussion.
The invitation to Mr Dunsby and colleagues is still open and should they wish to submit a plan for an alternative location then we suggest they do so as soon as possible.