Royal Hall takeover ‘difficult’

TAKING over the Royal Hall is proving “considerably more difficult” than Harrogate Theatre anticipated, according to the theatre’s chairman.

Coun Jim Clark said the choice facing Harrogate was to either let the theatre run the Royal Hall or watch as the council “semi-mothballed” it, but that worries over unexpectedly high losses at the hall had complicated matters.

In a letter to the theatre’s trustees, Coun Clark said: “Your board and management continue to negotiate with Harrogate Borough Council (HBC) on taking over the running of the Royal Hall, however it is going to be considerably more difficult then we first anticipated.”

He said the Harrogate International Centre - which includes the Royal Hall - was budgeted to make a loss of £600,000 this year, but that is now expected to be between £1.5m and £2m.

“We continue to pursue a positive outcome to our negotiations and in the past few months we have had support from the Royal Hall Restoration Trust, Harrogate International Festival and the Harrogate Chamber of Commerce,” he said.

“I have always made it clear that any arrangements in regard to the Royal Hall must not damage Harrogate Theatre but the people of Harrogate are faced with the stark choice of either Harrogate Theatre running the Royal Hall or HBC ‘semi-mothballing’ it.

“We have agreed with HBC that we will continue negotiating and make a final decision at our board meeting on January 16, 2012.”

He has taken the unprecedented step of inviting all trustees to the meeting, so they can air their views before the board makes its decision.