Will they or won’t they? D-Day for Harrogate parking plans

The Harrogate Area Committee called for a review into the plans.
The Harrogate Area Committee called for a review into the plans.

Senior councillors will make a final decision on whether to introduce Sunday and evening on-street parking charges in Harrogate next month.

A report recommending whether the controversial proposals should be taken forward is expected to be made public on Tuesday.

North Yorkshire County Council’s executive committee will then reach a decision on February 2.

It comes after the Harrogate Area Committee called for a review into the plans, which have already been tweaked following a major public backlash.

After crunch talks with members and officers from Harrogate Borough Council and the county council, officers carried out parking surveys in the James Street area over two Sundays this month.

County Coun Don Mackenzie (Con, Saltergate), North Yorkshire’s executive member for highways, said: “We had a meeting just before Christmas and as a result we asked officers to undertake some surveys of parking in Harrogate town centre during the month of January to give some indication of what I feel to be the case, and that is on Sundays Harrogate town centre is pretty well parked up.

“I will wait and see what the report says but certainly I feel that Sunday parking in Harrogate is a big problem when trying to encourage the turnover of parking spaces for the sake of town centre businesses.”

The county council’s proposals include introducing parking charges on Sundays, and extending charges from 6pm to 7pm on evenings.

The authority has stressed that the charges were about “better management” of spaces and not about raising revenue.

However, the plans have come under intense criticism, with thousands of people objecting to the proposals since they were first mooted in May, including the Rev Tim Hurren, Interim Minister at St Peter’s Church, cafe and restaurant owners and town centre community groups.

Coun David Simister (UKIP, Bilton and Nidd Gorge) said: “If they are going to introduce parking charges it would just be awful. This is a democracy in action. If they go ahead with the proposal there will be an awful lot of anger.”

An online petition launched by Harrogate businessman Mike Pywell has attracted more than 2,500 signatures, while the chief executive of the chamber, Brian Dunsby, has expressed concerns about the impact on night-time economy.

Coun Mackenzie said: “I do recognise that there are many local residents and businesses who are against the introduction of any new parking charges but that doesn’t particularly surprise me because it’s difficult to find any support for anything that raises the cost.”