Unanimous backing for £10m showground exhibition scheme

Artist impressions  of the Yorkshire Agricultural Society's new main exhibition hall.''''Images courtesy of P+HS Architects, Stokesley
Artist impressions of the Yorkshire Agricultural Society's new main exhibition hall.''''Images courtesy of P+HS Architects, Stokesley
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A £10m scheme to replace the main exhibition hall at the Great Yorkshire Showground will now go ahead after it was unanimously backed by Harrogate Borough Council’s planning committee.

The development marks the biggest single investment in the showground’s history and will see construction begin after the 2015 Great Yorkshire Show.

The new exhibition hall will replace Hall 1, which was constructed in the 1960s and only expected to last 20 years.

Heather Parry, deputy chief executive of the Yorkshire Agricultural Society said: “We are absolutely thrilled with Harrogate Borough Council’s endorsement of our vision. This will be the largest single project the Society has ever undertaken and is a real investment into the future of Harrogate to help it become the finest events town in the country.”

The showground is already a key venue year round for conferences, exhibitions and private functions, putting around £47m back into the region’s economy each year.

Miss Parry said the project would help broaden Harrogate’s appeal. She added: “We already work closely with the team at Harrogate International Centre and the Harrogate Chamber of Trade and Commerce has been extremely supportive, all of which contributes to the town’s reputation for excellence and versatility as a venue.”

The showground currently has 5,372 sq m of lettable event space in the main Hall 1 and adjacent Hall 2, which will now increase to 6,270 sq m. The building has been designed by Stokesley-based P+HS Architects, who also designed the Society’s headquarters, the Regional Agricultural Centre and its award winning shop and café, Fodder.

Miss Parry said: “Hall 1 was originally constructed in the 1960s and expected to last for 20 years so it has been a good Yorkshire investment. Unfortunately it is now deteriorating so we need to replace it. Today’s visitors expect higher standards and better facilities than those of 50 years ago so we are adding a large foyer area, a café and improved toilet facilities.”

Planning committee chairman, Coun Nigel Simms, said the decision to back the development was unanimous due to the economic benefits it would bring.

He said: “The old hall was outdated and past its sell by date.

“We have to do everything we can to improve the local economy, and if this brings more people to Harrogate, everyone benefits.”

He said some improvements would be made to traffic lights on Wetherby Road as part of the scheme.

Coun Richard Cooper, Leader of Harrogate Borough Council, said the showground was of great economic importance.

He added: “We want to see it thrive and prosper, and we want to make sure more people come to our district - the Yorkshire Showground is an integral part of that.”

Simon Kent, director of Harrogate International Centre said the new hall was a huge boost for Harrogate’s reputation as a leading event location.

He said: “A facility like this is another string in the bow of Yorkshire Event Centre’s facilities and strengthens Harrogate’s position as a versatile events town. With the backing of Visit Harrogate, YEC and HIC can continue to complement each other to attract more business to the town and further boost Harrogate’s economy.”