Harrogate's ten-year plan for the future
PUBLISHED: 00:00 11 April 2016
The foundations have been laid for a decade which could see some major changes in Harrogate. Paul Mackenzie reports
Harrogate is changing. Don’t worry, the town is still a wonderful place to live, work and visit. It remains an historic jewel in Yorkshire’s crown. It continues to be one of the finest shopping destinations around. And there’s no change in its status as one of the most lovely, and lively, places you’ll find anywhere – in fact, it was recently voted the best place to live in Britain for the third successive year.
But while much is staying the same, developments are underway which are intended to make the town even more enticing. A ten-year plan for the town is due to be published this spring which will provide a blueprint for the town’s future. It is aimed at boosting trade in town centre shops, exploring potential new ideas and making the town more attractive to residents and visitors.
But any changes in a town with the heritage of Harrogate have to be carried out sensitively to avoid tarnishing what’s already there. Harrogate Council’s Cabinet Member for Planning and Sustainable Transport is Councillor Rebecca Burnett. The 26-year-old has lived in the town all her life – even while she studied at university in York she lived in Harrogate – and she said: ‘Harrogate is not like anywhere else and we want to keep what’s special about it, without preserving the town in aspic.
‘It is important that we look to the future, but we are looking to build on what’s already working here to make the town even more successful.’
And Rebecca, who works for Harrogate and Knaresborough MP Andrew Jones, added: ‘The ten year plan contains a lot of ideas, some of which have been worked on and amended since after last year’s public consultation, which could improve the town. There are some elements that relate to public spaces which I feel are very important but we know we will not be able to please everybody.
‘There has been a mixed response to the plan and we are going to have to produce a final document that not everyone will be happy with so in the end we will have to listen what the professionals and the experts tell us and make a judgement.’
One development already well underway is the building work on the site of the old Beales department store which is being transformed into a shopping and leisure complex complete with a stylish modern cinema.
The people behind the £10m scheme believe it will change the way people view Harrogate and Paul Lancaster from Harrogate-based development consultants 4Urban said: ‘I think it’s going to change the dynamic in Harrogate. It will give people another reason to stay in the town and spend their money, or to come to Harrogate and spend their money.’
The new complex will include a four screen Everyman cinema – a fifth screen will be available for private hire – as well as a range of stylish restaurants. Some elements of the development were due to open this month, with others following in early summer and the curtain due to go up at the cinemain August.
Paul, who is originally from the West Midlands and previously studied and worked in Sheffield, added: ‘A lot of people have moved to Harrogate because of what it offers and there is now a younger population who are generally wealthy additions to the town.
‘They are demanding that Harrogate moves forward rather than standing still. I think there has historically been a wish from the people who have lived here all their lives that they would like to see it stay the way it has always been.
‘You can’t stand still but anything you do has to sit within Harrogate and look part of Harrogate. The development we have been working on is commensurate with what’s already in the town but has brought in a quality of occupier that wasn’t here. Cinemas tend to be very ugly buildings but this one fits in with other buildings in the town
‘People at the moment will drive to Leeds or to York but why would they do that if they can walk into their own town. We are creating a destination and the cinema has been a driver for that. Everyman have been in Leeds for a couple of years and they approached us to be a part of this development so they clearly believe there is a market even though they have a cinema just down the road.’
Among other changes taking place in Harrogate is a new exhibition hall at the Yorkshire Showground which includes a café, large foyer, offices and a dedicated workshop and seminar space which will be open in time for this year’s show, which will be held from July 12-14.