Plans for convention centre plaza

A scheme has been revealed to refresh the face of one of Yorkshire's best known business centres, with the creation of a new plaza as well as pillars to be lit up at night.

The Harrogate Convention Centre, as it is now
The Harrogate Convention Centre, as it is now

The Harrogate Convention Centre, re-branded in 2017, has long been one of the region’s biggest draws and brings an estimated £60m to the local economy.

Now, plans has been submitted to revise its Kings Road entrance to “enliven” the space, making it more vibrant and welcoming to visitors.

First impressions on approach to the centre can form visitors’ opinions on their experience, designers say, with the plans aimed at brightening up the existing area. As well as a new plaza and seating area, it would see brick pillars created to separate pedestrian and vehicle areas, to be lit up at night, alongside new security measures including galvanised steel bollards which can rise in six seconds.

“The scheme aims to change the appearance of the entrance plaza and surrounding walls, making the external spaces more vibrant and welcoming,” the plans detail.

“The scheme will transform the plaza into a space for social interaction and recreation.”

The Harrogate Convention Centre, formerly known as the Harrogate International Centre, opened its main auditorium in 1982, with its first ever event being the Eurovision Song Contest.

More recently, it has hosted the Country Living Fair, the Knitting and Stitching Show, as well as the BBC Good Food Show.

Social events and conferences have been held on this space for more than 200 years, first as The Spa Rooms which opened in 1835 and stood on the site of today’s ‘Hall M’, and then at The Royal Hall which opened in 1903.

Today Harrogate Convention Centre, owned by the borough council, welcomes more than 300,000 visitors every year and is credited with bringing an estimated £60m in visitor spend to the local economy.

Major plans are continuing to redevelop the site, following an announcement of a re-brand in early 2017.

These are still at a business planning stage, it is understood.

The proposed changes, directors have stressed, are not as part of these plans but as part of its ongoing maintenance and investment programme, as it replaces the area’s waterproofing.

“Whilst we are doing this work, we are taking the opportunity to improve our security measures and the external landscaping, including the creation of a piazza with more seating and lighting where people can socialise during events,” said Simon Kent, director of Harrogate Convention Centre.

“We’re also separating delivery vehicle access from the pedestrian areas and the piazza, to create a better visitor environment, away from traffic, using architectural installations which will also be lit-up on an evening.”

The planning application, submitted to Harrogate Borough Council, would see the area’s steps modified, with seating areas incorporated into them, and the plaza area would be opened up with sculpture-style seating.

“The proposed works aim to elevate the appearance of the entrance and streetscape, while also being sensitive to the existing architecture,” the plans say, adding that its “elegant” design would be sensitive towards the existing building while additionally creating a statement of its own.

“Internal lights will be added inside the pillars, making the wall light up at night, through the voids in the brickwork.”

The plans are subject to public comment until January 14.