Oatlands Traders - ‘Why won’t councils help us?’

NADV 1404156AM1 Oatland trader's petition.Chairman of the Oatlands Traders Committee Tony Medri with Ian Bainbridge secretary of the committee.  Picture : Adrian Murray.(1404156AM1)
NADV 1404156AM1 Oatland trader's petition.Chairman of the Oatlands Traders Committee Tony Medri with Ian Bainbridge secretary of the committee. Picture : Adrian Murray.(1404156AM1)

Furious Oatlands shopkeepers presented a petition to Harrogate Borough Council this week night, calling for the council’s backing while they recover from a drop in trade.

The Oatlands Traders Committee is asking for support to help traders recover their incomes after months of traffic jams caused by the building of a new M&S Food store led to a 40 per cent drop in footfall on the parade.

The Committee had written to North Yorkshire County Council (NYCC) asking for a recovery package including freezing business rates and refurbishing parking and walkways, but were told NYCC has no funding for the requested improvements.

Barrie Mason, assistant director for Highways and Transportation at NYCC wrote to the traders and said business rates were a Borough Council responsibility and “whilst there is no objection to in principle to improvement works, there is currently no highway funding available.”

Committee chair, Tony Medri said: “We are just getting passed from pillar to post by the council, the councils are both sending us to each other.

“It is frustrating because neither of them are helping us, they are just hoping we will go away soon.”

The roadworks are now expected to be completed by mid-May ahead of M&S Food fitting out the store.

Mr Medri said: “The council seem to think that will be the end of it, but it won’t be. It is going to take another 18 months at least to get businesses back on track, if it’s even possible.

“The council act like M&S opening here will solve all our problems, but it won’t.

“It might take away trade from some shops. There are dozens of example across thecounty where a big supermarkets has moved in and neighbourhood shops have shut.

Laura Brown, manager at Cooplands bakery said: “I don’t know if M&S opening will help, people have made new routines now and aren’t coming here so will they walk up after shopping at M&S? Even people who live nearby aren’t bothering.”

Ian Bainbridge, Postmaster at the Leeds Road Post Office said: “The problem has been we just aren’t getting people through the doors, the traffic has had a massive affect.”

Hannah Feeney, a hairdresser at Damian James salon said: “I don’t think the council have thought about business, just about M&S.”

A spokesperson for HBC explained although they are responsible for collecting business rates, the rates are set by HM Renenues and Custom’s Valuation Office Agency.