WITH the venue’s three main annual events out of the way for 2012, a new man is moving into the driving seat at Malvern’s Three Counties showground.

Ken Nottage, managing director of Gloucester Rugby club for 13 years, is taking over from Nick Vincent, who has been chief executive of the Three Counties Agricultural Society since 2005.

Mr Nottage will therefore assume responsibility for three of the Midland’s highest profile outdoor events, the Malvern Spring Gardening Show, which is televised and run in conjunction with the Royal Horticultural Society, the Three Counties Show and the Malvern Autumn Show.

Together they attract upwards of 270,000 visitors each year.

“It is early days, but I am very much looking forward to the challenge,” said Mr Nottage.

“Nick has created a very sound base here and now is the right time to take the business to the next level.”

This will be achieved by increasing the venue’s revenue, most likely by increasing the number of events it holds.

Before the prospect raises alarm bells in the surrounding community, it should be pointed out the intention, in the main, is to achieve this by maximising the use of the £1.5m Three Counties Centre, which opened this year with its potential for conferences, functions and indoor celebratory occasions.

Getting along with the neighbours has sometimes been a problem for the showground as noise generated tends to be amplified by its scenic setting at the foot of the Malvern Hills, which act as a natural “bowl” for music and PA announcements.

It was just one of the difficulties faced by Mr Vincent when he took over the hot seat seven years ago. Now he lists improved local relations among the most satisfying aspects of his tenure.

“We rely on the local community and now we talk to them instead of being at loggerheads, which I think happened a bit too much in the past,” he said.

It was no secret the TCAS was in a bit of turmoil when Mr Vincent arrived. With his background in accountancy and turning around failing companies, he was the right man for the job. “There were some tough decisions to be made,” he said, “but we restructured the management team and now have a much tighter framework.”

As well as the impressive new Centre complex, £4.5m has been spent on the roadways, toilets and general upgrading. “Bringing the showground into the 21st century,”

as Mr Vincent put it.

Among his most satisfying achievements have been reviving and realigning the flagship Three Counties Show to the extent that it now has more livestock and equine entries of any show in the country except the Royal Welsh.

Now, he feels, is the right time to go and from November the buck will stop on the new man’s desk.