Crisis talks over Royal Hall takeover as six-figure shortfall emerges

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A NEW deal to see Harrogate’s iconic Royal Hall taken over by the spa town’s theatre bosses has been thrown into doubt after a six-figure funding shortfall has emerged.

Crisis talks are set to take place on Tuesday, after Harrrogate Theatre’s director urged the chief executive and the leader of the borough council to get involved in discussions over the move after negotiations had reached a “stalemate”.

Russell Davidson, who is also the chairman of the Royal Hall Restoration Trust, claims the Harrogate International Centre (HIC) has snatched a £150,000 first-year subsidy off the table which could put an end to the highly-anticipated takeover bid.

However, HIC director, Angus Houston, has hit back at the claims and says they remain hopeful a deal with the theatre will be reached. While he refused to disclose any figures, due to ongoing negotiations, he said it was “unfortunate” Mr Houston could not substantiate the sum.

“Lots of figures have been discussed since we began the negotiations nine months ago. We are still in discussion and we are very hopeful that we will get some sort of partnership with the theatre,” he said.

Harrogate Council leader Don Mackenzie insisted there would be “money on the table” for the theatre, but said it was too early to disclose an amount. The Royal Hall, which was re-opened by the Prince of Wales in 2008 following a £10.8m restoration, is managed by Harrogate Council as part of the HIC portfolio, which lost £1m last year.

The theatre is set to make a decision on whether to push ahead with the takeover on January 16.