City centre road could help create cafe culture

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A CITY street could become the centre of continental style al fresco dining in a bid to boost the area’s economic fortunes.

Plans have been unveiled that would see Kirkgate closed to traffic between 11am and 11pm, allowing restaurants and cafes on the approach to the cathedral to spill out onto the street.

The scheme could be in place in time for the next tourist season beginning in spring 2012, and council chiefs hope it will boost trade in an area of the city which has seen a raft of shop closures leaving many premises on the historic street empty.

Councillor Don Mackenzie is chairman of the Harrogate District Strategic Partnership Forum, which steers the My Neighbourhood projects which include the Kirkgate scheme.

He said: “People sitting outside enjoying fine food and drink and taking in what must be one of the best views in the country, will have the added benefit of attracting other people to stroll along the street to browse, shop and enjoy everything else Kirkgate and Duck Hill have to offer.

“This is a very common practice in other towns and cities in the country and of course in many of our European counterparts.”

Restaurant manager Kali Drame of Flo Cafe Brasserie welcomed the idea.

“This would be a big deal for us.

“At the moment, people can’t even sit outside to enjoy a glass of wine, and three weeks after we opened a car reversed into our window, so we would definitely like it if the street were closed.”

Ripon’s MP Julian Smith has also thrown his weight behind the plans, and said he welcomed signs that Harrogate Borough Council is paying Ripon more attention.

“The city has suffered in the past and I have been at a number of meetings with the chief executive where I have called for the council to remember it represents more than Harrogate.

“I hope we can now look at a number of initiatives to kick-start the economy in Ripon and ensure it punches above its weight.”

The scheme would allow delivery vehicles access to the street before 11am.

An allocated space for vehicles would also be made at the end of the street to allow goods to be delivered after 11am if necessary.

But James and Vanessa Wood, owners of Chimes cafe on Kirkgate, are concerned about how the scheme could affect residents as well as traders on the street.

“It’s great idea, but we are just not sure about the practicalities,” Vanessa said.

“Everyone needs deliveries, and there are people living on Kirkgate and the alleys of it as well.

“We can’t get our national suppliers to deliver in a two hour time slot, we just aren’t big enough.”

Before an approach is made to North Yorkshire County Council, who are responsible for highways, and Harrogate Borough Council, responsible for licensing and environmental health, the My Neighbourhood project team needs to know whether there is public support for the proposal.

The borough council has now launched a consultation into the idea, and residents and businesses are invited to send their comments on the proposal by completing a questionnaire available by emailing engagement@harrogate.gov.uk or by calling 01423 556068.

The closing date for comments is 30 October.

l Would you like to see al fresco dining on Kirkgate? Tell us your thoughts by writing to the Editor at Ripon Gazette, 5a Kirkgate, Ripon, HG4 1PQ or emailing news@ripongazette.co.uk.