Tesco campaigners meet with officials in Harrogate

Brian Dunsby, Mark Thomas, and Bob Jones. (S)

Brian Dunsby, Mark Thomas, and Bob Jones. (S)

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Campaigners have met with Tesco officials on the site of its new Harrogate superstore to voice their concerns over its coming construction.

Members of Harrogate Chamber of Trade and Commerce secured the meeting with Tesco corporate affairs manager for the north, Mark Thomas, after months of planning.

They were joined by business owners, politicians and councillors at the site last Thursday, voicing concerns over what they say are “fundamental flaws” in the plan.

“While we are not against Tesco coming to Harrogate, there are some serious questions over that site and over the way the development has been planned which need addressing before work begins,” said chief executive Brian Dunsby. “We hope that Tesco will now consider the points raised and will come back with an alternative proposal.”

Tesco was first granted planning permission for its new superstore to be built in New Park in 2011. Earlier this year, it submitted plans to re-work traffic around western Harrogate to accommodate the build and access routes.

“We’re always keen to listen to all views,” Mr Thomas said. “We’re in discussions with the highways authority about reducing the timeline for works to reduce the impact, which is one reason for the current delay. Moreover, the works that would be carried out will ultimately make a big improvement to the road network and traffic flow.”

But the chamber says there are “fundamental flaws” in Tesco’s plans, citing access issues and potential traffic disruption for up to 10 months. The solution, says Mr Dunsby along with campaigner Bob Jones, would be to demolish the former Little Wonder Pub, creating a larger roundabout with a different access road.

“We’re grateful for Mr Dunsby sharing his proposed roundabout plans with us and we listened carefully to what he had to say,” said Mr Thomas. “However, we highlighted that we’re not able to remove the gasometer, which is central to Mr Dunsby’s plans. It was also unclear to what extent the roundabout that he was proposing would impact local businesses. We have spent many years ensuring our plans are right for Harrogate and having them assessed by a wide range of authorities.

“We are absolutely confident that our plans will be good for Harrogate.”

Campaigner Bob Jones, who lives in Killinghall, said: “The focus must now shift to the councils and councillors’ who must not be allowed to wash their hands of responsibility and blame Tesco for the disruption. They must now put the long term prosperity of Harrogate to the fore.”

And Peter Jesper, chamber vice president, said: “I sincerely hope that Tesco and their advisors re-consider their current proposals and take heed of the warnings, concerns and constructive suggestions of the chamber; that to my mind has the most thorough understanding of Harrogate’s needs and also of the consequences of getting this wrong for our town.”