The biggest ever investment at the Great Yorkshire Showground will make the site the most modern showground dedicated to agricultural events in the UK, its owners claim.
On the eve of the return of the three-day Great Yorkshire Show which begins on Tuesday, its organisers, the Yorkshire Agricultural Society has had planning permission granted by Harrogate Borough Council to press ahead with designs for a new £10million exhibition hall to replace the current one.
The existing building will be used at the show this week to host flower contests and cheese and dairy competitions, but in the weeks after the curtains come down on the 155th Great Yorkshire Show, the next phase of the design work to map out the interior of the new building will begin.
After next year’s show building work is expected to be started, which would mean the hall would be open in time for the show in 2016.
Nigel Pulling, the Society’s chief executive, hailed the importance of the planning decision after years of work behind the scenes to get the scheme to this point.
“It’s probably the biggest decision for the Society since we sold land here to Sainsbury’s in the early 1990s,” Mr Pulling said.
“It’s a massive project and it is key to our future.”
Besides the Great Yorkshire Show and Countryside Live, the exhibition hall is also used to host the Potato Council’s industry showpiece and agricultural machinery trade shows.
Mr Pulling said: “The project will give us the scope to host these events on a bigger scale with a more modern backdrop. It will allow us to increase the overall capacity of the hall by about 20 per cent.”
The timing is right for the upgrade, he said, as the existing hall was originally built specifically for the Great Yorkshire Show in the 1960s.
“I was called the Flower Hall and that was what it was used for, and although it is good for showing flowers we have used it for sales of antiques and for dinners and it just needs to be a much more modern facility - we have to move with the times. When it is finished we will have the most modern showground dedicated to agricultural events in the UK.”
Now that planning permission for the new building has been granted, attention now turns to modelling in detail the interior of the building and securing the finances. The 11-figure sum of the scheme accounts for the largest single investment in the Society’s history.
Mr Pulling said: “This investment shows our confidence in the future of both the Society and the Great Yorkshire Show. We set out to be the premier agricultural show in England and this underlines the focus we have to continue with that and grow from where we are.
“We’re set for three fantastic days next week and that will be a great platform for the future.”
Around 135,000 people are expected to attend the Great Yorkshire Show between Tuesday and Thursday this week.
Records numbers of sheep and cattle are set to compete at the show this year.
Mr Pulling was keen to emphasis that the Grand Départ, which takes place across Yorkshire this weekend, will not interfere with visitors to the Great Yorkshire Show.
“It’s not a normal year for us at the showground this weekend but come next week it is a case of business as normal for visitors as the Tour de France will have been and gone.”
Exhibitors have been advised to arrive earlier than usual for the show with many of the region’s roads closed for long periods this weekend for the Grand Départ. The first livestock arrived on Friday.