Controversial plans for parking charges set to hit Harrogate this November

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Controversial plans to increase on-street parking charges in Harrogate have been approved and will come into force next week.

North Yorkshire County Council announced in September that they would be increasing the charges in an aim to incentivise motorists to use Harrogate Borough Council owned car parks.

The charges will be increased in short stay zones by 10 per 20 minutes and in the inner zone and outer zone areas by 10p per 30 minutes.

These will come into force from Monday, November 7 followed by the introduction of Sunday on-street pay and display parking charges in Harrogate town one week later.

The county council explained that the move follows guidance from the Department for Transport, dismissing fears they would negatively affect town centre businesses.

Coun Don Mackenzie, executive member for Highways, said the charges were designed to reduce congestion and make the town centre "even more attractive" to visitors.

He said: "There are plenty of empty spaces in Harrogate’s off-street car parks currently and a policy that encourages people to use these off-street spaces, which reduces on-street congestion, must be a positive step forward for the business, cultural and recreational life of the town.

"Surpluses arising from our on-street charges are used for a variety of highways- and transport-related purposes, which themselves are designed to reduce congestion, like improving rail and bus services, contributing towards the cost of concessionary fares, and funding bids for highways infrastructure improvements, and cycling and walking schemes.”

The decision to introduce Sunday charges followed a joint review with Harrogate Borough Council of on-street and off-street parking in the town.

The review found evidence that that occupancy of on-street spaces was "very high" with off-street car parks able to accommodate more vehicles throughout the day.

Despite this evidence presented by the county council, the plans have raised concerns with Harrogate residents, businesses and councillors.

Earlier this month, Coun Matthew Webber (Lib Dem, New Park) told the Conservatives at a Full Council meeting to start "properly representing" motorists following the approval of the charges.

However, Coun Rebecca Burnett, HBC cabinet member for Planning and Sustainable Transport refuted his claims that the county council were "raiding the pockets of residents again" with the latest increases.

She said: "There is clear guidance from government that parking charges in any town should encourage people to park off street.

"We have a situation here where some of the off-street parking is more expensive than the on-street parking. That clearly isn't happening so I understand the reasons that it's been made.

"I also think in our town here whether it's on street or off street it's incredibly cheap compared to some of the other places across the country. It's not like people are having their pockets pinched to come and park in Harrogate.

"In fact, I put the question out that in this district where we suffer from congestion so much, are we doing enough to persuade people not to drive their cars in, I'm not sure we are just yet."

The county council defended the price increased as parking tariffs in Harrogate town had not changed since September 2011.

On-street inner zone charges have been the same price as the Jubilee long stay and only 10p more expensive than the Victoria long stay. The on-street outer zone has been cheaper than both long stay car parks.