‘Free parking on us’

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SHOPPERS in Harrogate will be able to park for free this Christmas Eve as a goodwill gesture following last week’s power cut.

Northern Powergrid has offered to pay Harrogate Council so shoppers can use the Jubilee and Victoria car parks for free throughout Saturday.

It comes as a welcome relief to shops, which are hoping for a bumper Christmas Eve to mitigate the “absolute disaster” caused by last Saturday’s power cut.

Council leader Don Mackenzie said: “Whilst we all understand that major power cuts are very rare, last Saturday’s occurred on the busiest day of the year. It came at great cost to businesses and at great inconvenience to shoppers.

“I believe that this gesture from Northern Powergrid goes someway to putting things right and I commend them for it.

“The company’s emergency contingency plans worked extremely well, and I would also like to thank them for the speed with which they did restore power.”

Stores were plunged into darkness for several hours on the busiest shopping day of the year, forcing many to close their doors early in the afternoon.

Clare Bulmer, manager of United Colours of Benetton in Montpellier Parade, said: “It should have been the busiest day of the year and instead it was just an absolute disaster.”

Her views were echoed by Sarah Earl of Space in The Ginnel, who said: “It was so frustrating and it cost us a fortune.

“It must have been one of - our busiest days of the year, so we went from having a bumper day selling hand over fist with queues at the counter, to having a completely empty shop within minutes.”

The power cut was caused by an electrical equipment failure at a substation in the Jennyfields area. It left 19,300 customers without power, although 16,700 of them were reconnected by Northern Powergrid within an hour.

The fault also led to smoke coming out of the substation and firefighters were called to the scene before the electricity supplier could work to restore power to the rest of the town. Power had to be disconnected to 8,700 homes twice more as engineers tested the equipment to ensure it was safe, before the final 90 customers were reconnected at 6.40pm.

John Barnett, director of customer operations at Northern Powergrid, said: “Events of the type that occurred last Saturday in Harrogate are very rare and we are very aware of the inconvenience that the power cut caused; including to retailers, entertainment venues, and their customers.

“We wanted to provide a gesture of goodwill and approached Harrogate Borough Council with some ideas. We are delighted to be able to take up their suggestion regarding providing free parking arrangements in the town on Christmas Eve.

“We wish everyone in Harrogate a peaceful and happy Christmas.”

l For the full story, including details of how the power cut affected people around the town and reaction on Twitter, see this week’s Advertiser.