Business leaders back Royal Hall takeover plans

HARROGATE business leaders have given their backing to a deal to take over the town’s troubled Royal Hall and have offered to set up a new advisory group to support the Harrogate International Centre (HIC) in attracting new business.

The Harrogate Chamber of Trade and Commerce yesterday announced its support of Harrogate’s Theatre’s current bid to take over the running of the Royal Hall, which is managed by Harrogate Council as part of the HIC portfolio, after it emerged the threatened agreement has now been put back on track following a crunch meeting.

The chamber says it has been impressed by a new programme of events for this spring unveiled by Harrogate Theatre which includes a series of high-profile shows at the Royal Hall - billed as the biggest shift in the district’s cultural entertainment for 50 years.

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However, chief executive Brian Dunsby has stressed this support is conditional on safeguards for community groups who need to use the Royal Hall to continue doing so on viable terms.

Chamber President Simon Cotton said: “The chamber wishes to work positively with the council officers in putting forward suggestions for promoting and running the conference centre and the Royal Hall in order to bring more major events to the town, for benefit of the wider business community, including hotels, guest houses, restaurants, bars and retail shops that all depend heavily on the attendees at such events.”

The historic venue was officially reopened by Prince Charles in 2008 following a revamp which cost £10.7m.

It emerged that taxpayers have been footing a daily bill of £1,000 to operate the venue, which staged just 57 events during 2010-11.