David Parkin on Yorkshire hotels, rocking memories and a Bates and Blatter dream team?

David Parkin on Yorkshire hotels, rocking memories and a Bates and Blatter dream team?

YORKSHIRE doesn’t appear to be doing well on the hotel front at present. Just when you can start counting cranes again on the skyline of the region’s cities – a sure sign of a confident economy – then a few high profile hotel developments have gone pear-shaped. To be honest, you didn’t need to be Mystic Meg (for older readers, she’s like Doris Stokes with a Cleopatra hairdo; for younger readers, you’ll have heard of neither of them) to predict the demise of Skelwith Group’s flagship project in Yorkshire. The group’s subsidiary company Skelwith Leisure, revealed last week that it had gone into provisional liquidation, blaming the costs of a legal dispute over the ownership of the land at Flaxby Golf Course, between Harrogate and Knaresborough. Skelwith Leisure had been behind a trumpeted £100m country club and 300-bedroom 5-star hotel on the former farmland next to the A1. Plenty of golfers joined the fledgling club, putting up with a clubhouse made up of a couple of cobbled together portable buildings, in the hope they had got in early as members before the project – which Skelwith boasted would be grand enough to attract the likes of David Beckham to fly in by helicopter – was started in earnest. Mind you, if Posh and Becks did fancy a weekend in the country, it probably wouldn’t be beside the A1 in North Yorkshire. Although Bob Schofield, who owns the nearby Harrogate Paintball Centre, would certainly have shown them a good time. It turns out that Skelwith Leisure decided that the proposed plan, granted planning permission back in 2010, to create the...
David Parkin crosses the Pennines in search of the perfect gin and tonic

David Parkin crosses the Pennines in search of the perfect gin and tonic

AFTER an interesting, educational and enjoyable meeting of The Alternative Board, chaired by Martin Allison, this week, I made the trip across the Pennines to the launch of a new gin. Someone in our board meeting misheard me and thought I was off to the opening of a new gym. They clearly don’t know me well enough. The invite was thanks to Sophie Brown, who used to run the finances at Leeds Bradford Airport and is now the chief financial officer of Quintessential Brands, a London-based drinks group founded by former Campari Group CEO Enzo Visone and ex-investment banker Warren Scott. The group owns a range of alcoholic drinks brands including the historic Greenall’s The Original London Dry Gin as well as exotic new gin brands such as Ophir and BLOOM as well as a variety of rum and whisky-based liqueurs. You don’t need to be a barfly to know that the latest alcoholic drink to undergo a renaissance is gin. One no longer goes into a pub or bar and asked for a G&T. You have to pick your brand of gin and in some places there is now even a choice of tonic waters. I can remember when all you were offered was either Gordons or Beefeater. Things moved on and then the trendy thing to drink was Bombay Sapphire, followed by the emergence of Hendricks which you absolutely had to drink with cucumber. Now you often get the choice of all sorts of flavours to complement your gin, from basil and a variety of other herbs to slices of orange. And while Quintessential Brands has clearly...
David Parkin on a big wheel for the Northern Powerhouse, the Leeds 10k and bald facts

David Parkin on a big wheel for the Northern Powerhouse, the Leeds 10k and bald facts

I CAN tell I’m getting to know the Great Yorkshire Show: I didn’t need to use a map to navigate my entire way around this vast event this week. The annual agricultural jamboree enjoyed fantastic weather and great attendances over its three days and is now so much more than a place where farmers show off their animals. I had a wander around the showground with its food halls, car displays and stands selling tweed jackets and salmon-pink strides, before heading to the Welcome to Yorkshire BBQ at its stand next to the big wheel. Talking of big wheels, the newly knighted Sir Gary Verity, chief executive of the tourism organisation, was on fine form in his yellow Tour de France chinos and crisply-pressed blue shirt with white collar. Clearly lots of people have been asking Sir Big V if he is interested in the mooted mayor of Yorkshire job. He made it very clear that he isn’t (the third time I’ve seen him say it) but he did call for a mayor to represent the whole of the county’s 5.2m people, rather than dividing things up into four sub regions with a mayor to represent each of them. He made the point that that approach would create four bridesmaids “to Manchester’s bride” as part of the so-called Northern Powerhouse. Those on the other side of the Pennines have a head start when it comes to devolution, having already agreed to take on wider decision-making and funding from central government in exchange for agreeing to the creation of the role of an elected mayor for Greater Manchester. Sir Gary...
David Parkin on the king of clubs, a sucker punch Budget and lightning golf

David Parkin on the king of clubs, a sucker punch Budget and lightning golf

IT must be my retro fascination with music hall acts and variety performers that attracts me to the world of working mens’ clubs. As a student in Huddersfield I was a member of a local club in Moldgreen, making weekly trips to see a range of ‘turns’. One I remember, was called Rocky Rhodes and appeared dressed as a latter-day Zorro to perform tunes like Down Mexico Way. The comedians were never really ‘blue’ because the audience was mixed and relatively elderly, but I was told that the rare night the club had strippers in was worth a visit. Apparently they showed everything for £1, collected gracefully in a pint pot. It’s a pity I never got to experience such an evening. Inflation means they probably wouldn’t take their lace gloves off for a quid these days. My most recent visit to a working mens’ club was on Monday evening. Thanks to Jamie Hunt of Yorkshire-based finance firm CTF, I was invited to the Arden Road Social Club in Halifax. Now Jamie either has a business opportunity in the social clubs sector or just fancies himself as a Yorkshire version of Brian Potter from Phoenix Nights. Working mens’ clubs kingpin George Dawson, president of the Club & Institute Union, runs the organisation with the same iron fist he manages the weekly bingo game at Arden Road. In between popping out for a Capstan Full Strength cigarette (the only person I have ever seen smoke one of those was Harry Enfield’s Wayne Slob character), George is interesting company and a mine of information on Britain’s social club scene. Monday evening...
David Parkin on George Osborne’s derailed Northern Powerhouse

David Parkin on George Osborne’s derailed Northern Powerhouse

WHEN Chancellor George Osborne mooted his Northern Powerhouse idea last year I echoed the thoughts of the majority of business people across the North and welcomed it. For too long the North has been the runt of the economic litter, losing out to the South in terms of government spending, foreign investment and transport projects. But I warned at the time that the ’Northern Powerhouse’, complete with its plan for an HS3 rail project to speed up links across the East-West corridor linking Newcastle with Liverpool, needed to be more than just a good idea. Little more than a few months ago I asked the question: when will it happen? I said last summer: “By floating the idea, the Chancellor now knows this isn’t going to go away. As an MP in a Northern constituency in Cheshire, he will clearly understands the benefits of such a project. “His big challenge now is to find the money for it and, if his party can win the next election, set a timetable that doesn’t put the completion of the project beyond the retirement date of most people working today.” I have to say that even in my most cynical moments I didn’t expect the Government to pull the plug on the project within weeks of their shock election win. Last week it was announced that there would be a “pause” for the electrification of the Midland Mainline and the TransPennine route between Leeds and Manchester. They can spin it all they like and blame the inefficiencies and ineffectiveness of Network Rail, but Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin’s announcement was a humiliating climbdown....