TOURISM chief Sir Gary Verity has suggested visitor information centres in the Bradford district could be run by volunteers to save them from closure.

The chief executive of Welcome to Yorkshire cited the tourist centre in Thirsk, North Yorkshire as an example of a successful volunteer-run centre.

He said: “Thirsk is run entirely by volunteers and it’s probably a lot more successful now than it was when the council was running it. I’m not aware of the specifics of the local debate [in Bradford] but tourist information centres still have a role to play in the visitor economy.

“It’s just a question of who’s going to pick them up and run with them.”

A public consultation over the future of visitor information centres in Bradford city centre, Haworth, Saltaire and Ilkley is currently ongoing, and will close on March 6.

Four different options have been set out but all involve closing the Ilkley Visitor Information Centre, located within Ilkley Town Hall in Station Road, despite it being the busiest in the district for the number of visitors and the cheapest to run (£56.7k) and most cost effective. It generates the most income - 32p per visit - much of which is from ticket sales for the King's Hall.

However, the consultants who carried out a review of Bradford's tourism service, which needs to save £172k, argue visitors to Ilkley's Visitor Information Centre are primarily locals and recommend it for closure, along with Saltaire VIC as one option, which would save £142k. Option two, to maintain Haworth but close all the other VICs would save £213k; option three - favoured by the consultants - to keep Bradford VIC but close all the others would save £244k and options four to close all the VICs would save £315k.

Councillor Anne Hawkesworth (Independent, Ilkley) said a volunteer-run centre could be an option in Ilkley. She said: “I have suggested to the parish council that they could partially fund it, and volunteers could be an option as well.

“We must remember it’s not just a tourist centre in Ilkley, it's also the King’s Hall box office. Another option is a consortium of users of King’s Hall, but I would agree volunteers should be looked at. We must retain the centre in some form in Ilkley.”

Ilkley Parish Council is currently in negotiations with Bradford Council in a bid to stop the closure of Ilkley's Visitor Information Centre, as well as the town's toilets.