By Graham Chalmers
A humble £2 coin is at the centre of a parkingcharges controversy in Harrogate.
That’s the amount North Yorkshire County Council is proposing to charge for on-street parking spaces on evenings and Sundays in Harrogate town centre.
Until now, such parking has been free.
The Harrogate Advertiser has spoken to 17 local people from the town’s community groups, arts organisations and nightlife economy to see what they thought.
These included everyone Harrogate Spa Ladies to the co-owner of William & Victoria’s wine bar and restaurant, from the RAFA to West Park United Reformed Church, Harrogate Symphony Orchestra to the Blues Bar.
The answer was clear - almost unanimously 100% against the proposals.
Their replies add to the concerns about the charges previously raised by The Rev Tim Hurren, Interim Minister at St Peter’s Church, Harrogate Chamber of Trade and several others.
The county council says its proposals are designed to improve the management of parking and increase the turnover of cars.
Coun Don MacKenzie (Con, Saltergate), North Yorkshire County Council’s executive member for highways, said: “These plans are intended to make it easier for visitors to town to park in what are the most convenient spaces.”
But the legal position on at least one issue is clear.
By law, NYCC is not allowed to use the proposed new charges as a new source of revenue or taxation.
Local authorities have no power in law to set parking charges at a higher level than needed to achieve the objective of relieving traffic congestion.
A decision on whether the new parking charges are likely to go ahead will be announced in November.
In the meantime, here is a brief snapshot of what the community thinks of the proposed new parking charges.
Community says ‘no’ to new parking charges in Harrogate
Vice-chairman, Harrogate & District branch of Royal Air Forces Association
“Whoever thought up this one must have a screw loose. Harrogate is a tourist and holiday town and is dependent on people coming into town.
The Rev John Campbell
Minister, West Park United
Reformed Church, Harrogate
“Our premises are used during evenings and through Sundays when users have finished their daytime jobs.
“Their activities help Harrogate preserve its integrity and retain its individuality with extended benefit to the town’s prosperity.
“It must be hoped that by the time they are required to make a decision, Councillors have recognised the strength of feeling which opposes an extension of parking charges. “
Co-owner of William & Victoria Restaurant and Wine bar, Cold Bath Road, Harrogate
“The idea of introducing evening charges is insane. We should be encouraging visitors to come to our lovely unique town and eat in our wide range of independent restaurants, not to annoy them by having an unnecessary parking charge.”
Harrogate Spa Ladies
“Our main concerns are that the charges on Sundays and evenings will be detrimental to the town. They will add to costs of goinf to the theatre or cinema or eating out.
“We wholeheartedly oppose the proposal to introduce Sunday and evening parking charges.”
Artistic director, 6:12 theatre company, Harrogate
“My interest is on how it would affect the attraction of coming into town in the evenings. Not everyone can walk from their homes to the theatre.”
“Additional expenses could be a deterrent to many, especially the elderly, low waged or pensioned folk.”
Press and publicity officer, Harrogate Operatic Players
“We really must try to make it as accessible as possible for our supporters and prospective audiences to visit our wonderful theatre and concert halls.
“By making people pay to park after 6pm you are penalising our visitors for their patronage.”
Chairman Harrogate Choral Society and Halcyon Choral Society
“We should not be discouraging them with this blanket weekend/evening parking charge.”
Director and conductor, Harrogate Symphony Orchestra
“It is difficult enough to try and encourage audiences to come out in the wet and cold or the wind and snow without having to convince them to part with even more of their hard earned cash.
“Surely there are ways of the council being able to raise funds without targeting the few people who are supporting the cultural life of the town?”
Chairman, Woodlands Drama Group, Harrogate
“Harrogate’s Theatre and a vibrant town centre are critical to attracting visitors to Harrogate and to the ongoing prosperity of the town.
“This long term prosperity should not be put under threat for short term gains in parking revenue, revenue which would itself suffer if footfall in town was reduced.”
Co-owner, Bean & Bud café, Commercial Street, Harrogate
“At the Bean & Bud we (probably unfairly) call traffic wardens the ‘customer prevention team.’
“Retaining free parking on Sundays would generate more vitality on the town centre – and more business. Harrogate is essentially a destination for visitors.”