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The Future Council ?

North Yorkshire Devolution

May

2021

The Society organised a Zoom meeting between Cllr Carl Les, Leader of North Yorkshire County Council, Cllr Graham Swift, Deputy Leader of Harrogate Borough Council and the Committee and some members to discuss devolution prior to us submitting our response to the Government’s Open Consultation.

The main part of the consultation that we felt able to comment on was with regard to the formation of a Town Council (based on Parish Council legislation).

Harrogate Civic Society supports the creation of a Town Council - it is unusual for a town the size of Harrogate not to have its own council.

North Yorkshire has a population of approx. 600,000. Harrogate District has a population of approx. 160,000. That’s a quarter of North Yorkshire’s. Harrogate Town has a population of approx. 75,000 . So, 1 in 8 people in North Yorkshire live in Harrogate. This is in itself an argument in favour of local governance through a Town Council.

The town has an amazing collection of listed buildings in public ownership and the enthusiasm and local knowledge that can go into preserving, managing and developing these assets should stay local. Buildings such as the Royal Hall, Royal Baths, Pump Room Museum, Mercer Gallery, Sun Pavilion are in public ownership.

The town has been winner of Britain in Bloom 11 times and is a Champion of Champions town within the RHS competition scheme. That relies on local governance and coordination with the local authority. A town council will be able to enhance the efforts made to retain the gardens, parks and planted areas. Such an important aspect of the town could be lost without a local Town Council.

The town has a large conservation area divided into nine sub areas - again relying on local knowledge to maintain and grow them.

Together with support for the creation of a Town Council, adequate financial resources should be made available to allow the newly formed council to work effectively.

The 200 acre Stray, although owned by the Duchy of Lancaster, is currently managed by Harrogate District Council. After devolution, the Stray should be managed locally.

The Minister is therefore urged to recognise the position and role of Harrogate in any future proposals and to ensure, at an early stage, the creation of a Town Council in accordance with the legislative tools available.

The Society now has to wait for a decision from the Minister, which is due over the summer. In the meantime, we will consider the merits of a Community Consultation to speed up the process of creating a Town Council.