'New bypass may be required' to tackle traffic as key Harrogate stakeholders outline alternative to £11.2m Gateway plans

A coalition of businesses and residents is calling for the development of a new ‘Masterplan’ for Harrogate to supersede the troubled £11.2 million Gateway project – including a rethink on building a new bypass in the town.
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The rejection of the remaining elements of the North Yorkshire Council-led, environmentally-focused initiative which has divided the town on the future of car travel in Harrogate town centre is no knee-jerk reaction to events.

Six months ago, following communications with the council’s Corporate Director Environment Karl Battersby and Coun, Keane Duncan, Executive Member for Highways, members of Independent Harrogate, Harrogate Residents Association and Granville Road Resident’s Group came together to create “A Vision for Harrogate”.

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The weighty document outlined in great detail an alternative to Gateway’s controversial plans to improve Harrogate town centre by introducing more cycling and pedestrianisation in the Station Parade and James Street areas.

Harrogate Gateway’s controversial £11.2m proposals to improve Harrogate town centre would have seen more cycling and pedestrianisation in the Station Parade area of the town centre. (Picture Gerard Binks)Harrogate Gateway’s controversial £11.2m proposals to improve Harrogate town centre would have seen more cycling and pedestrianisation in the Station Parade area of the town centre. (Picture Gerard Binks)
Harrogate Gateway’s controversial £11.2m proposals to improve Harrogate town centre would have seen more cycling and pedestrianisation in the Station Parade area of the town centre. (Picture Gerard Binks)

Much has happened since then, including a recent announcement by North Yorkshire Council that, to avoid the threat of a legal challenge to the project by a leading Harrogate commercial property owner, it would be dropping precisely those controversial elements.

Rather than warming to Gateway, however, the same three community-based groups which between them can boast nearly 1,500 members, now say it’s time to move beyond Gateway completely, even if it involves Harrogate potentially losing access to the £11.2m of government money from the Transforming Cities Fund pushed by former Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

In a newly-published addendum to “A Vision for Harrogate”, they argue that improving Harrogate should be a process decided by Harrogate itself built on local knowledge of the town’s unique heritage and strengths, not, in their words, a "desktop" design from North Yorkshire Council Highways consultants”.

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One key element the future must address, these key stakeholders believe, is the possibility of at least one new bypass in Harrogate to tackle traffic congestion.

Harrogate Residents Association member Barry Adams, a retired award-winning architect, said: “While we fully understand there is a desire to ensure funding available through the Transforming Cities Programme is used for the benefit of Harrogate we strongly believe monies should not be spent just for the sake of spending it

"Any Vision for Harrogate must be based on a thriving town economy which is not jeopardised in any way, treating Harrogate as a unique and very special town.

"The development of a new Masterplan for Harrogate will be a complicated process and will involve many factors, not just business issues and will require suitably qualified professionals to put together.

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"We all need to keep working at it for a successful future.”

The newly-published addendum - which can be viewed in full along with the original document at https://www.independentharrogate.org/2023/11/15/a-vision-of-harrogate-a-basis-for-discussion/ – is the result of much thought and effort.

Among its many discussion points - in its own words - are:

1 No so-called Gateway type project or indeed any such vision will attempt to be successful unless the ever increasing and apparently forgotten problem of traffic congestion is dealt with.

It is essential the ever increasing problem of congestion caused by traffic in and out of the centre of Harrogate should be addressed by the introduction of a Park and Ride system without any further delay.

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The Gateway Project will not resolve the noticeable and constant problem of queuing traffic on Wetherby Road in particular, Skipton Road and other main arterial routes in to out of or through the town.

A rethink is required on a bypass or relief road is considered to the west and north of the town linking up at both ends with the existing bypass.

2 Harrogate looks scruffy let alone capable of reclaiming its place as a “Jewel” in Yorkshire’s crown.

It needs looking after properly and returned to the glory it was some ten years ago or more - make sure everywhere looks clean, tidy and cared for in.

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3 The existing Station Square Gardens should be retained subject to minor improvements and ongoing maintenance.

This area with its seating screened from Station Parade is already well used and reflects or takes reference from the 1950’s layout for Station Square.

4 It is absolutely essential a Town Council for Harrogate must be elected without any further delay.

No more talking and no more consultations on this important issue.

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Harrogate is different to most other towns and this contributed to its success and reputation for many years.

History has shown though it is not against change, however.

Businesses and residents together understand what is at the heart of the town.

It must involve everyone as part of a democratic process, including local councillors.

5 Any solution which harks back to the Gateway Project should be avoided. We question whether cycling fits into a town centre busy with pedestrians.

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It will add another element to an already busy through route along Station Parade.

In addition, as has been pointed out before, any cycle lane along Station Parade will start nowhere and finish nowhere.

Although a number of people disagree, the East Parade Option for cycling lanes is an alternative route that deserves further more detailed consideration.

6 Harrogate’s current Masterplan dates back to 2016. Its time has expired and it’s not up-to-date.

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What is required is an holistic Masterplan for Harrogate that looks at all factors and influences which forms a coordinated, solid basis for a Vision for Harrogate rather than the ‘Pocket Planning’ of Gateway plans.