How Gateway project elsewhere work as Harrogate's reaches crucial stage

Harrogate is far from being alone in the battle to create a better transport hub in the town centre in a way that pleases all sides of the debate.

By Graham Chalmers
Monday, 4th July 2022, 5:31 pm

Its £10.9 million Gateway project is part of a £42m package of infrastructure improvements for town centres across North Yorkshire funded by the Government as part of the nationwide Transforming Cities initiative.

In Skipton, a £7.8m Gateway project was approved by North Yorkshire County Council after the results of its recent public survey showed 66% of respondents saying they felt positive about the project.

Two lanes or one lane? North Yorkshire County Council, backed by Harrogate Borough Council, says it is seeking to create an “outstanding public environment."

It’s worth mentioning that, only 125 responses were received in total, which compares unfavourably with consultations in Harrogate.

Like Harrogate’s Gateway project, Skipton’s biggest investment in decades aims to create a more attractive entrance to the town with improved public transport links for pedestrians and cyclists.

Like Harrogate, the Skipton Gateway plans have been through several design changes after not wholly positive reactions to some of the details.

The proposals had included a cycle lane on Broughton Road between Skipton train station and the town centre.

This has been scrapped after concerns were raised over the safety of cyclists and loss of a taxi rank.

In Selby, its £23m Gateway scheme focuses on Selby railway station with the goal of creating a new public plaza to increase public transport use, encourage sustainable travel and upgrade the public realm.

One of the main planks of the plans is to remove an industrial unit which blocks the view of the historic abbey for passengers arriving in the market town.

But complaints at a public consultation in Selby, mean a planned foot and cycling bridge over the River Ouse has been scrapped.

What happens next in the long-running saga of the Harrogate Gateway project?

Should North Yorkshire County Council decide the results of its forthcoming public consultation over the £10.9 million Gateway plans - the third so far - merits going ahead, that may not be the end of the story.

In theory, there may still be a few minor hurdles to clear.

If West Yorkshire Combined Authority then approves its business case, the county council would need approval to enter into construction contracts.

The latter would need Executive approval.

Finally, the county council would have to issue Traffic Regulation Orders which may need approval from executive members of its own Business and Environmental Services team.

How £10.9m Gateway project hopes to improve Harrogate town centre

In recent weeks North Yorkshire appears to have taken note of one of the key factors fuelling growing hostility to the £10.9 million Harrogate Gateway project.

Bolstered, originally, by public support for sustainable transport measures in Harrogate town centre as illustrated in 2019 in one of its biggest-ever public consultations, the county council started the Gateway journey aiming to create a better town centre.

An ambitious as well as expensive project, Gateway sets out to provide an accessible, attractive and cleaner alternative to car journeys with a shift towards more sustainable travel choices such as walking, cycling and using public transport.

North Yorkshire County Council, backed by Harrogate Borough Council, say it is seeking to create an “outstanding public environment and high-quality, sustainable transport links.”

But those good intentions and a pledge of Government funding have failed to sway Harrogate businesses fearful that the end result will neither reduce traffic congestion nor help them prosper.

It’s a situation North Yorkshire County Council appears to have recognised in a recent public statement announcing the latest in a series of public consultations on Gateway.

“We acknowledge that the impact of the changes on traffic levels and traffic flows were key issues that were raised as part of the previous consultations,” said Karl Battersby, the county council’s corporate director of business and environmental services.

“We intend to provide further information on those aspects as well as consulting on the formal traffic regulation orders, which would be required to carry out the changes on James Street and Station Parade.”

The question is whether any meeting of minds is possible from this process or whether the whole project is now in some trouble?

Can Gateway really shed some of its most radical points and adapt to the different ideas from Harrogate businesses and still move towards delivery point?

The county council says the start date of any work on Gateway will be subject to feedback from the forthcoming consultation and the submission of a final business case to the West Yorkshire Combined Authority to get permission to access and utilise millions of pounds.