Harrogate's Christmas markets in doubt this year after council rules they cannot be held on the Stray after 'outgrowing' location

Harrogate’s Christmas markets will not be held on the Stray at Montpellier Hill this year due to health and safety concerns, it’s been announced.
Harrogate Christmas marketsHarrogate Christmas markets
Harrogate Christmas markets

Harrogate Council said in a statement that it wouldn’t be safe to hold the event there in November due to the risk of overcrowding, evacuation procedures, counter terrorism measures and Covid.

Event organiser Brian Dunsby told the Local Democracy Reporting Service that the announcement came as a surprise to him and that he would be lodging an appeal.

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He said: “We are extremely disappointed with this lack of consideration and communication by the council.

“The team have been working hard to make sure this event can happen and it was only last Wednesday when we met with the council. Before this, we had submitted our complete event plan on May 5 - the council came back with a few questions and we covered all of those issues.

“I’m very determined to try make sure this event can still go ahead but there is no other location in Harrogate which serves the purpose of attracting people into the town centre.

“If it doesn’t go ahead, it is not us who will have cancelled the markets, it is the council.”

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The annual event - which attracts more than 80,000 visitors - was called off last year because of Covid, although organisers moved the markets online with a website promoting stall holders.

At the time, a study carried out by Where the Trade Buys estimated the cancellation came at a cost of £2.7m to Harrogate’s economy.

Mr Dunsby said planning for the event’s return this year had been going well with 170 traders and 53 coaches booked to attend.

In a statement explaining its decision to not allow the event to go ahead at Montpellier Hill, the council said: “The event management plan (that we require for any event of this scale) did not fully take into account the risk of overcrowding and necessary evacuation procedures, counter-terrorism measures and the ongoing risk of Covid-19.

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“Feedback from North Yorkshire Police, Public Health and North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service has also been taken into consideration to reach this decision.

“As we have responsibility for the Stray, we need to be confident that any event will be managed effectively and not put an additional strain on the emergency services.

“Unfortunately, the success of the market has outgrown what can be safely delivered in this location.

“This was not an easy decision to make, but the health and safety of Harrogate district residents, traders and visitors must always come first.

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“We understand that residents and businesses welcome and rely on a Christmas market in Harrogate town centre, and we do too. That’s why we’re working hard to ensure alternative Christmas festivities take place.”