First formed in 2019 as concern grew over retail closures in the town centre, Independent Harrogate has more than 200 members from local indie businesses, including some of the town's most prestigious shopping names.
It has long argued for more free parking, rather than less, and its new statement follows last week's announcement by North Yorkshire County Council that its highways team is to impose experimental traffic restrictions on Beech Grove and Lancaster Road.
Under the new rules, non-residential through traffic would be prevented from entering these roads to create quieter streets where residents feel safer when walking and cycling.
Independent Harrogate argues that, though it supports the principle of minimising car use to help reduce climate change, this is not the way to do it and it could harm Harrogate's economic recovery once the nation is through the Covid pandemic.
The letter in full to the Harrogate Advertiser reads...
Road Closures will lead to Business Closures and Job Losses by Independent Harrogate
"There can be few people, wherever they are on this planet, who remain unaware of the problem of climate change and the steps being taken to correct it and minimise further damage.
"Harrogate, like the rest of the UK, is doing its best to achieve this. One example being the introduction of electric buses.
However, is a totally car free Harrogate the answer?
"The Government has announced forthcoming changes including bringing forward the phase-out date for the sale of new petrol and diesel cars and vans to 2030.
"This, and other legislation, is to support greater uptake of zero emission vehicles for greener car journeys.
"This is moving apace right now, and clearly the war on emissions is well underway centrally in Westminster.
"Until we are all using ‘green’ vehicles we are, quite rightly, being encouraged to minimise car use.
"With such major changes being implemented nationally does the desire to make Harrogate a net carbon zone have to come at the loss of so much else in our town?
"Over the past 18 months, from the autumn of 2019, events have had a considerable impact on Harrogate businesses, particularly those in the town centre.
"Most have suffered grave losses, sadly many have closed.
"Much of what made Harrogate a unique ‘destination’ town has been lost.
In fact, 60/70% of shoppers come from outside the district.
"If you remove parking you are effectively removing visitors.
"It would seem that they have not been asked their opinion of these driving and parking restrictions any more than local people and businesses have.
"Closing streets to cars and parking has been one of the most significant causes of this dreadful downturn and now further measures are being put in place, with yet more strictures planned.
"The council and North Yorkshire County Council are turning parts of the town into low traffic areas by restricting vehicular access which, in turn, obliges drivers to use other busy routes, adding to condensed toxic emissions along those now heavier traffic jams, frequently far longer and more involved journeys, and forcing traffic on to roads near schools for example.
"Such decisions appear arbitrary with little or no consultation with residents or traders, only with certain powerful lobbies, and scant regard for objections.
"To many, the suggested alternatives of cycling and walking appear extremely discriminatory.
"They are not suitable for everyone. Those with disabilities, visible or hidden, whom together with the elderly, face enormous difficulties.
"How are they expected to get around and also get their shopping home?
"The question must therefore be asked, is this going to prove the end for many more Harrogate businesses?
"Will it also herald the end of Harrogate as a town that people choose to visit when happier times return?
"Surely a more democratic way must be demanded? And some serious questions answered.
by Independent Harrogate
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