I’m afraid it can be no more than one cheer out of three for the draft Harrogate Borough Local Plan for which the deadline for public comments closes tomorrow (October 16).
I agree with Peter Jesper (Advertiser, Letters October 1), that there hasn’t been nearly enough public consultation about this so-called masterplan which will not only shape the future of Harrogate for the next ten years but will, irrevocably, alter the overall look and ambience of the town centre for all time.
Coun Rebecca Burnett lamely claims (Advertiser Letters, October 8) that 1,500 residents and businesses in the town centre were sent letters and invited to submit their views.
She appears to have forgotten that the population of Harrogate is around 76,000 and on an issue as important as this, surely everyone should have received notification of what is planned? Unless of course, Coun Burnett believes that councillors (or, God help us, council officials) have the monopoly on wisdom and bright ideas? Even the most superficial reading of the masterplan would suggest this is not the case.
Quite apart from the fact it’s sloppily written with a load of spelling mistakes, the 48-page document comes across as incredibly vague and appears to be based on wishful thinking rather than concrete, detailed ideas.
Its central premise seems to be: let’s pedestrianize the whole of the town centre. As an enthusiastic walker and only occasional car-user who lives very near the town centre, I rather like the idea of all the main retail streets being car-free.
But I also recognise that those who live further out need to use their cars; and yet bizarrely, the masterplan offers no practical solutions for motorists as a consequence of greater pedestrianization; such as a commitment to create new parking areas just behind the central shopping streets.
The other major theme is the suggestion that Harrogate should be attracting more tourists and business visitors - and encouraging them to stay longer. But the masterplan offers no specific ideas on how this can be achieved.
It airily calls for the creation of a significant, family-orientated tourist attraction and “additional commercial leisure facilities” and yet gives no examples of what it has in mind. Presumably it’s relying on private businesses to come up with the ideas – and provide the funding?
The council also seems blind to the fact that, at present, Harrogate isn’t even delivering on some of the absolute basics of what visitors should expect from what is supposedly a premier conference and tourist destination.
It’s really quite shameful to only now be talking about upgrading Harrogate’s railway station and the immediate surrounding area to provide a more inviting first impression for visitors.
It’s not as if Harrogate suddenly became a tourist destination in 2014. The station first opened in 1862 and yet it only just seems to have dawned on councillors that the rail gateway is a disgrace.
As regards another absolute basic visitor facility, there’s not a single mention of the council committing itself to providing clean, safe, functioning public toilets. Some of the existing facilities appear to not even be cleaned from week to week, let alone on a daily or twice-daily basis which should surely be standard practice in any town which relies so heavily on tourism to drive the local economy?