Harrogate business world's views on town centre future and sustainable transport plans

The practical consequences on daily life of making initial changes to how Harrogate’s roads and streets are arranged in order to reduce car use is leaving no section of the town unstirred.

Friday, 12th March 2021, 5:59 pm
Should James Street in Harrogate be at least partly pedestrianised?

The Harrogate Advertiser talked to two of the town's business figures on opposite sides of the fence in the debate.

At the moment, local transport authority North Yorkshire County Council is preparing to implement three separate initiatives to turn the town away from car use towards sustainable transport with Government funding.

These include:

The Gateway Project in the Station Parade area

‘Low Traffic Neighbourhoods’ at Beech Grove and Lancaster Road

New new cycle paths at Victoria Avenue, Oatlands Drive and on the A59 out of Knaresborough towards Starbeck.

Among the strongest objectors to elements of the planned changes is the business community, worried about surviving in the context of the challenges of Covid, shop closures and rising online spending.

One of the flashpoints for public debate in the Harrogate Advertiser’s ‘Sustainable Transport Survey’ has been the Station Parade area, in particular, James Street, one of the most prestigious addresses in retail.

Following concerns expressed on the possible impact on shops of partial pedestrianisation in a recent joint statement by Harrogate BID, Harrogate District Chamber of Commerce and Independent Harrogate, a new salvo was fired this week by another major figure in the town’s business community.

Beryl Dunsby, until her retirement, the driving force alongside her husband Brian of two of Harrogate’s most successful annual business events - Yorkshire Business Market and the Christmas Fair, warned now was not the rght time for any more disruption in the town centre.

She said: “Local shops need and deserve customers.

“Anyone who has lived here for 30 years or more will remember the chaos when the new market hall and the convention centre were constructed.

“If construction vehicles move in instead, causing noise, dust, traffic jams and diversions, then Harrogate town centre will become known as a building site to be avoided by locals and visitors.”

But a partner at Hempsons, a national law firm specialising in the health, social care and charity sectors with 70 staff based in The Exchange office block which towers above Station Parade, said he was completely supportive of the plans for change in the Gateway project.

Adrian Parker said: “We are pleased to see investment by Harrogate Borough Council and North Yorkshire Councils working together with the West Yorkshire Combined Authority on this £7.9 million winning bid for significant town scape improvements on and around Station Parade.

“At Hempsons, we encourage our Harrogate-based staff to use public and sustainable transport where possible and are pleased to see plans to enhance bus access, pedestrian and cycle infrastructure in the area around our offices in the Exchange.

“As one of the major employers in the town centre we welcome initiatives that will enhance the local environment for our staff.

“We see these proposals as improving the town centre experience and access to Harrogate’s local facilities and shops for our staff.”

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