There has been an incredible start for new group Independent Harrogate with membership rocketing.
Just days after Independent Harrogate was launched by some of Harrogate's most famous names in retail concerned at the state of the town centre, more than 100 shops and retailers have now joined the group which wants to have indies listened to as changes are made in the town centre.
Calling themselves a new “powerful independent collective voice,” IH has met with Harrogate BID, which was itself set up earlier this year financed by a levy on local businesses to improve the town centre.
After the meeting with BID manager Elizabeth Murphy, former BID manager for Wakefield, and BID chairman John Fox, a spokesperson for Independent Harrogate said they were keen t work together and there was “much common ground and optimism for future positive collaboration between IH and BID.”
But Independent Harrogate also stressed that differences between the two groups remained, in particular, over Independent Harrogate’s free parking campaign and its request to add up to three independent retail directors to the BID board.
The spokesperson said: “IH were pleased to hear some detail of the BID team's ideas about how the BID levy payers’ money may be effectively invested to improve the vibrancy of Harrogate and its independent retail sector – there was much common ground and optimism for future positive collaboration between IH and BID.
"But we also discussed with BID that, although independent retailers are acknowledged to be a key part of Harrogate’s DNA, there are none as directors on its board, even though this is in its Business Plan. We are seeking that they add up to three independent retailer directors to the BID board."
Independent Harrogate is showing no signs of backing down on its demands for more free parking in Harrogate town centre, even though this directly counters the thinking of the local authorities.
A spokesperson for IH said: "IH also understand that neither Harrogate Borough Council nor NYCC are in favour of introducing free parking in the town centre but rather may be planning to increase parking fees and even extend restricted areas, running counter to central government’s National Planning Policy Framework, which states that local authorities should set appropriate parking charges that do not undermine the vitality of town centres.
"William Woods of IH made clear that IH strongly agrees with the statement of Mary Portas in her review of town centres (The Portas Review) when she said “ … I fundamentally believe that to increase the cost of parking in a locality … is to curtail the appeal of that location and therefore the longer term economic viability of the area.”
"IH asked BID to actively support it in persuading the Local Authorities to increase free parking in the town centre and adopting some other of Portas’ recommendations, many of which have been endorsed by central government, to help improve its vibrancy and footfall."
Local businesses who have joined Independent Harrogate include: Adage Dance, Arkwrights Hardware, Bass & Bligh, Bijouled, GA Taylor, G23/Porters, H2K Skincare, Helen James Flowers, Imagined Things, Maturi Bag & Baggage, Morgan Clare, Milk & Honey, Ogdens of Harrogate, Stephen Neall Group, Tennants Auctioneers, Walker Galleries, Weetons, Whites, Woods Fine Linens, Yorkshire Farmers Meat Company.
The next stage for Independent Harrogate will be to work with its members to define a vision for Harrogate retail that everyone, including Harrogate BID, can agree on.