One of Harrogate’s most respected organisations is calling for the controversial Crescent Gardens site to be turned into a ‘cultural quarter’ with just a week to go before the deadline for new bidders expires.
Harrogate Borough Council told the Harrogate Advertiser that interest had been “very strong” in the former council offices facing the Royal Baths since developer Adam Thorpe lost the original contract to redevelop this prime site.
But Harrogate Civic Society argues that, whoever the new purchaser turns out to be, the emphasis should be on creating “a centre for public benefit and enjoyment” focused on the town’s heritage, arts and culture.
The civic society’s joint vice-chairman Stuart Holland said: “We see the potential for a Cultural Quarter with its hub centred on the core of the existing building that would include the original Council Chamber, Mayor’s Parlour, the grand staircase and a couple of adjacent rooms on each floor.
“This would require only a small percentage of the total floor space but would give the town an amazing resource.”
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Harrogate Civic Society’s involvement comes just a week before the deadline passes for new bidders after the latest round of marketing by Harrogate Borough Council.
A council spokesperson said the council was very pleased with the number of approaches received by its agents.
It welcomed the civic society’s ideas but said it was up to the society to work with potential purchasers themselves.
The council spokesperson said: “Harrogate Civic Society has some positive ideas around preserving aspects of Harrogate’s history, but it will depend on the co-operation of the bidder/purchaser who will have their own plans for Crescent Gardens.
“Social amenity” is an important element of the bidding process, but it is not the only consideration and it would be for the society to work with the bidder/purchaser to explore what is possible.”
The civic society has shared its vision with The Friends of Valley Gardens and the Friends of The Mercer Gallery, as well as the council.
It also says that some of the potential new developers have been approaching it for its views on the future of the site.
The civic society’s joint vice-chairman Stuart Holland said: "Some of the potential developers of Crescent Gardens buildings have approached the civic society for their views on how the building should be used and so this vision has been shared with them.
"It is hoped that other potential bidders will see the value of this vision when preparing their bids.
"The civic society exists to "Protect, Preserve and Enhance the character and amenities of the town".
"We believe that this vision for Crescent Gardens meet all three aims but in particular, by creating a Cultural Quarter, we will be enhancing part of the town for generations to come."