Town centre shake-up - your right to know?

MAJOR changes to Harrogate town centre are still being discussed - but developers are reluctant to share them with the public.

Plans to create a transport interchange on Station Parade and pedestrianise Parliament Street - by Caddick Developments and Lateral Property Group respectively - came under heavy fire when they were first announced last year.

This week, both groups told Harrogate Chamber of Trade that revised plans now either exist or are being finalised.

Neither company, however, is prepared to release details to the public - and both refused to provide images to the Advertiser which were displayed at the meeting.

“There is no story as yet - no plans have been put forward,” insisted Lateral managing director Philip Lunn in a statement to the Advertiser. He has remained tight lipped about his proposals since they met with a public outcry in June.

Lateral hoped to pedestrianise Parliament Street and turn the area around the war memorial into a striking town square. A61 traffic would be re-routed down Montpellier Hill and around the Pump Room Museum before meeting back up with Ripon Road.

A review of the plans to date was presented at Monday’s Chamber of Trade meeting by chamber chief executive, Brian Dunsby, after months of silence from the developer.

“The plans presented [at the meeting] were eight months out of date and so comment on those plans is not relevant,” said Mr Lunn.

“We’re acutely aware of how sensitive any proposals will be and are working hard to have the plans ready for a full public consultation before Easter.”

Mr Lunn did not attend the meeting, but staff from Cicada PR, which represents, Lateral, told members they would pass on comments or questions to him.

Caddick Developments director Johnny Caddick did attend, showing plans at the meeting to develop a combined rail-bus interchange, and a mix of shops and residential accommodation. The proposals now include a tower overlooking lower Station Parade that it was suggested could house a “boutique hotel”.

The original plans faced huge public opposition when, in March last year, North Yorkshire County Council announced road changes which it argued were required for the development to go ahead. Station Parade would be “semi-pedestrianised”, with A61 traffic sent down Cheltenham Mount, Bower Road and East Parade.

Mr Caddick said: “This proposal has been on the cards for some time and we are looking towards driving them forwards. We see this site as vitally important for Harrogate. It’s a gateway site to the town and the first thing a lot of people see when they come here.”

He said the potential development of four units, in excess of 5,000ft sq each, was the last opportunity to find spaces of that type in Harrogate and necessary to attract big-name retailers so the town can compete with York and Leeds. The key to the scheme, he added, was making Station Parade more accessible to pedestrians, for which “traffic calming” measures - like speed reduction or stopping through-traffic - would be required.

He would not be drawn on where re-routed traffic might go, saying the decision was the responsibility of North Yorkshire County Council and that it would be inappropriate for him to comment.

Caddick also refused to provide images displayed at the meeting to the Advertiser, but one chamber member described the artist’s impression shown of the new tower as being “about as aesthetically pleasing as an East German police station”.

Sue Kramer, of Crown Jewellers on Commercial Street, who organised the Say No To Station Parade campaign, said: “It’s a main thoroughfare through Harrogate. During the county council’s consultation, 91 per cent of the people that responded strongly disagreed to the re-routing of the traffic. The people of Harrogate don’t want this.”

However, Granville Simpson, owner of traditional toy shop The Rocking Horse, said: “I would appreciate and approve of anything that brings the big national chains to Harrogate because that would only help my business.”