BID latest: Will Harrogate cut parking charges?

Should parking be free in Harrogate town centre to boost shops?
Should parking be free in Harrogate town centre to boost shops?

Harrogate businesses are set to get a glimpse of where £3 million worth of new investment to support the town centre may be going.

Having won its battle to set up a Business Improvement District in Harrogate, the group’s chair John Fox will be giving an update to Harrogate and District Chamber of Commerce next Monday.

As part of the work to implement the Business Plan for the Harrogate BID, which was approved by ballot last year, businesses in the BID area of central Harrogate have already started receiving a bill for a levy payment to create a budget of more £500,000 per annum for the next five years.

The Harrogate BID board, which has 16 members, gathered last week as part of a series of quarterly meetings.

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How parking in Harrogate has risen as an issue

There is speculation over whether Harrogate BID’s first raft of measures will include one concern common to a lot of traders in the town centre - parking.

Despite the move away from the motor car towards ‘sustainable’ transport, it was one of the main points highlighted in the Harrogate Advertiser’s hugely popular Town Centre Survey last year.

The first months after the successful Harrogate BID ballot in November 2018 saw some independent traders call for discounted or free parking to boost trade in the town centre.

One particular bone of contention is Sunday parking charges in Harrogate which were introduced in November 2016 by the county council.

Parking charges: Harrogate shops' viewpoint

Pam Lewis of Cold Bath Road’s Tilly Peppers cafe previously told the Harrogate Advertiser: “I think the main thing that needs to be done is looking at parking fees, especially on a Sunday.

“It’s greedy and discourages people from coming into the centre of town, and people are instead going outside the area where it’s free.”

Parking charges: Harrogate BID's viewpoint

At the time, chairman of BID, John Fox, had said he was keen for BID to address the situation.

He said: “For independent retailers the main area of concern is car parking and its cost,” he said.

“Our own surveys found that customers’ experience of coming into town and moving around was putting them off.

“The Harrogate BID in its Business Plan states the BID can deliver and support tactical parking and public transport incentives/promotions to attract people into the town centre.

“We want to work with both North Yorkshire County Council and Harrogate Borough Council to get away from using parking in Harrogate town centre as a ‘cash cow’, we need to encourage people into Harrogate to spend time here.

Parking charges: County council's view

But North Yorkshire County Councillor Don Mackenzie told the Harrogate Advertiser in January that Sunday parking charges were introduced due to visitors actually ‘being deterred’ from coming into town, unhappy at the lack of available spaces.

He also said the town also had a very large number of disc parking spaces close to the town centre where drivers can park free of charge for up to three hours.

Parking charges: Harrogate council's view

Coun Richard Cooper, leader of Harrogate Borough Council, said at time he was keen to liaise with BID but the council was not so keen on encouraging greater car use for environmental reasons.

He said : “HBC is one of the largest contributors to the Harrogate BID, putting in tens of thousands of pounds.

“Our preferred solutions to congestion and parking are always to favour sustainable transport.”

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