Harrogate hospitality group accuses Stray Ferret of ‘misleading’ information
Last updated Mar 2, 2022
The association is based at Harrogate's Crown Hotel.

Harrogate Hospitality and Tourism Association Ltd has accused the Stray Ferret of publishing “misleading press reports” in an article about a £3,720 payment for the purchase of the domain name Destination Harrogate.

Yesterday The Stray Ferret published an article about Harrogate Borough Council spending taxpayers’ money to buy the domain name from Destination Harrogate as part of our remit to scrutinise the use of public money.

The association said in a subsequent statement that Harrogate hoteliers Simon Cotton and David Ritson, who are directors of Destination Harrogate Ltd, did not own the domain name and “it was not theirs to sell” because the decision was taken jointly by members.

Mr Cotton is managing director of the HRH Group, which owns the Fat Badger, the Yorkshire Hotel and the White Hart hotel. Mr Ritson is general manager of the Old Swan hotel.

It adds:

“In 2019, HBC approached HHTA and investigated the opportunity to purchase the rites to the brand name and website. All members met and took a formal vote on the matter and agreed to sell the rites to HBC for a nominal sum. At no point did either Mr Ritson nor Mr Cotton have any greater involvement in this matter more than any other association member. It was agreed that Destination Harrogate as a company would be wound up and a newly formed company under the name ‘Harrogate Hospitality and Tourism Association Ltd’ was registered. All assets were transferred to the new company”

The statement continues:

“In setting up the new company HHTA, Mr Cotton stood down as a director and therefore has no direct involvement in this company other than being a member of the association.

“HHTA would like to clarify that they were happy to work with HBC to transfer the domain name and that the transaction was between the HHTA and HBC only, and not anyone personally.”

The Stray Ferret has sought clarification on the statement.

Public records from the council show payment for the domain was made to Destination Harrogate Ltd, not HHTA Ltd.

Companies House records show Destination Harrogate Ltd is still an active company. A notice for voluntary strike-off was issued on January 4 this year. Mr Cotton and Mr Ritson have been listed as sole directors since late November 2019.

Companies House records for HHTA Ltd show the company has been dormant since 2020 with no activity.

In the light of this we asked for evidence of the assets, including the payment for the domain name, being transferred from Destination Harrogate Ltd to HHTA Ltd, as we have been unable to find any record.

We also sought clarification on how the domain name was not Mr Cotton or Mr Ritson’s to sell as they are listed as company directors, and requested further details about the links between Destination Harrogate Ltd, HHTA and HHTA Ltd.

The association, which lists the Crown Hotel in Harrogate as its address, replied to say it “will be making no further comment or response”.

The Stray Ferret contacted Mr Cotton prior to publishing yesterday’s article asking him if he wished to comment on the payment. We have not received a response.

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