York & North Yorkshire

Harrogate Convention Centre needs £47m, says council

Harrogate conference centre
Image caption The 1982 Eurovision Song Contest was held at the Harrogate Convention Centre

A convention centre currently used as a Nightingale hospital may not survive unless a £47m renovation project is approved, according to a report.

The 40-year-old Harrogate Convention Centre could remain on standby as the temporary hospital until March.

But the North Yorkshire venue is in "critical need" of an upgrade to keep its national appeal, councillors were told.

Centre director Paula Lorimer said the work would "reinvigorate" the site.

There is a "very real risk that the venue will not survive" without investment, the report stresses.

Harrogate Borough Council is to discuss investing £1m for design and project work on the venue which has seen its finances worsen during its use as an NHS Nightingale hospital.

The NHS does not pay rent to the convention centre or the council.

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Media captionHow Harrogate's Convention Centre was converted into a hospital in under three weeks.

Plans to rebuild it could involve three exhibition halls being demolished to make way for a new 5,000 sq m hall and a refurbished auditorium.

Ms Lorimer said: "My ambition is for us to return to the top tier of conference and exhibition centres in the UK."

The council would need about £20m to construct the first phase of redevelopment, with another phase later.

If it is not done, the report estimates the centre's maintenance costs over 20 years could be £19m.

Image copyright NHS England/Simon Dewhurst
Image caption The hospital is based at the Harrogate Convention Centre, owned by the council

The council is in talks with the NHS over how much longer the centre will be needed, said the Local Democracy Reporting Service.

Graham Swift, Conservative councillor and cabinet member, said the redevelopment would "create a unique facility".

Pat Marsh, leader of the council's Liberal Democrats, said: "If we are to attract more business we can only do it with a facility which offers 21st Century standards."

The council estimates the venue attracts about 157,000 visitors each year.

The plans will be discussed at Wednesday's meeting of the council's cabinet.

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