Crucial public meeting over use of Valley Gardens tonight

Members of the Friends of the Valley Gardens.
Members of the Friends of the Valley Gardens.

A large crowd is expected to attend an important meeting in Harrogate tonight, Thursday, October 20.

One of the main questions the open meeting at 6.30pm at the Brostoff Hall in St Peter’s Church will answer will be whether the public will back the Friends of Valley Gardens in its stance over the controversial issue of holding major events in Harrogate's loveliest park?

The normally reserved unpaid volunteers who look after the Valley Gardens are worried about the damage to sections of the grass after the first-ever StrEat Food Festival which attracted an estimated 110,00 people over the last bank holiday weekend.
But most Harrogate Advertiser readers who posted about the issue recently on the Harrogate Advertiser’s Facebook page were wholeheartedly in support of the he hugely popula event’s return next year.
And a recent poll on Harrogate Mumblers Facebook page asking people if they supported events like StrEat Food Festival received only one reply in the negative.
But Friends of Valley Gardens are worried the more events held, the more potential damage will occur, unless new steps are taken.
And they are calling for such events to be held on The Stray instead.
Jane Blayney, chair of Friends of Valley Gardens said: "FOVG want to ascertain what the Community wish for their community park. Hence our decision to call an Open Meeting.
"Thousands enjoyed the event and rightly so. Thousands did not see the devastation left behind .
"Thousands are not aware of the weeks that the Harrogate Borough Council gardeners spent re-seeding the area.
"Thousands are not aware of the days taken clearing away the rubbish.
"Thousands do not realise just how much work is done by three HBC full time gardeners and a seasonal extra.
"The decision will rest with the council but FOVG wishes to ascertain the views and opinions of the community for their future plans and development."
Harrogate Borough Council has already confirmed it supports events like the StrEat Food and Family Fun Festival but also enjoys close relations with Friends of Valley Gardens.
HBC leader Coun Richard Cooper said: “We have an excellent relationship with the Friends of Valley Gardens and we will be speaking with them to ensure that we are aware of and address their concerns.
“Harrogate is developing an enviable reputation for the diversity and quality of events that are held within the town.
“We are committed to working closely with event organisers to consider potential issues and how to address any issues which arise as soon as possible.
“Whilst the Stray is an ideal location for events, the Stray Act does restrict what events can be held on this land and the number of times per year it can be used for such activities, so for events to take place in Harrogate we need to consider alternative venues."