Royal Hall could be run by Theatre

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IT’S one of Harrogate’s most popular buildings and re-opened in 2008 following a £10m overhaul.

But the historic Royal Hall lost £365,000 last year and now Harrogate Council, which runs the venue, is planning changes.

Responsibility for the hall’s box-office will transfer from Harrogate International Centre (HIC) to Harrogate Theatre, pending a council vote on Wednesday.

And the Advertiser can reveal that discussions have already taken place about the possibility of the theatre leasing and running the Royal Hall as a whole.

Harrogate Council leader Coun Don Mackenzie said: “The Royal Hall is a wonderful building.

“We are so lucky to have it and we recognise all the community efforts put into refurbishing it, but its continued maintenance and the running of it as an event centre is a responsibility and a burden on the taxpayer.

“If we can lessen that burden, then that surely is a good thing to do.”

The Royal Hall lost £364,561 last financial year and is expected to lose a further £246,125 in 2011-12.

Members of the council’s cabinet are considering three alternatives to secure the venue’s long-term future: continued HIC control, third-party management and leasing to a third party.

A fourth option put forward by officers - closing the venue - was discounted after talks with councillors.

“When a venue is costing a lot of money, an option always is to stop doing what we are doing,” Coun Mackenzie said.

“That has been rejected. I think even the officers put it forward as an option that would be rejected.”

What the officers are recommending is that members ask HIC director Angus Houston to examine in detail the possibility of leasing the Royal Hall to a third party.

Coun Mackenzie said: “Clearly the theatre is an option. I have had early discussions with them and Harrogate International Festivals may also be interested.” He added that the Royal Hall was costing the taxpayer £1,000 a day and an operator that could run the venue more efficiently and effectively was an attractive proposition.

The theatre said it was happy to contribute to discussions about the hall’s future, which must be “established as a facility for the benefit of the community, whilst hosting exciting national and inter-

national artists”.spokesman added.