Harrogate looks set to follow the lead of Birmingham’s NEC and SEC in Glasgow in creating an event and retail campus at the site of its major conference venue.
The future of the Harrogate Convention Centre site is to be the subject of a major review being considered by Harrogate Borough Council at a cabinet meeting next week.
The proposals would see the Council, which owns the convention centre, drawing up a business case for remodelling much of the exhibition space to create a new event complex which could include new accommodation, retail outlets and leisure facilities on the Kings Road site.
The Royal Hall and Crowne Plaza hotel would not be included in any new scheme.
Convention centre director Simon Kent said agreement on developing the site further would be a “positive endorsement in the future of the events industry in Harrogate”. He added: “We hope to invite outside organisations to submit ideas. We need fresh thinking and ambition for Harrogate to remain the home of events in the North of England.
“Essentially we are open to interesting ideas for part of the site, or even the whole site, with the exception of the historic Royal Hall and newly refurbished Crowne Plaza hotel.
“We will be talking to organisers of regular large exhibitions, which come to us every year, to ensure those valuable clients keep coming back to us, as well as building on our successful track record of nurturing smaller events.
“Harrogate’s visitor economy is vital to the region and we, as a business, contribute an economic impact of £60m to it annually. If the plans are given the go-ahead it will be a really positive endorsement in the future of Harrogate as a national and international event destination.”
Kent said the plans were very much at the ‘ideas stage’ and he hoped to see a leisure and event offering which would make the convention centre an “even bigger driver of Harrogate’s visitor economy”.
Jonathan Sabarre, head of marketing at Cairn Group (owners of The Majestic Hotel in Harrogate) welcomed the news, telling CN: “We welcome the idea of creating an events campus in Harrogate. Making the change from a conference centre to a flexible venue capable of hosting a variety of events will help to create a thriving business events hub in the North East. Our property The Majestic Hotel, part of The Cairn Collection, is within a short-walk of the venue and we believe that changing it to an events campus will be a fantastic asset to the local economy.”
The Council will now commission detailed studies into the requirements of the venue and how best to retain current business and attract new business.
As a going concern, emphasis would be placed on minimising disruption to the convention centre’s regular events during any reconstruction work.
Cllr Richard Cooper, Leader of Harrogate Borough Council, said: “This study is about ensuring we not only retain but grow the £60m pumped annually in to our local economy by the convention centre.
“Because the conference and exhibition world changes we need to change with them and make sure we supply the type of venue and facilities event organisers want. In this way we will stay one step ahead of our competitors and ensure those visitor economy pounds continue to go into the cash registers of local hotels, guest houses and shops and supports jobs.”
The recommendations are due to come before the Cabinet on 23 August.