In an unprecedented show of strength, more than 30 of Harrogate’s most prestigious names in the independent shop and restaurant sector have launched a campaign for free parking to 'save the town centre.'
Initial discussions last week between just a few traders mushroomed into the launch of an online petition backed by 30 well-known Harrogate shops and restaurants calling for “Free 3 Hour Parking in Harrogate” on change.org
The traders’ online petition to scrap parking charges in key streets for the town’s struggling retail sector has already received more than 1,000 signatures in under a week.
With names such as Ogden’s jewellers, Slingsby Gin, Tennants, Walker Galleries, Hoopers, G23, Morgan Clare, Imagined Things, Weetons, Sasso, Woods Fine Linens and Graveleys throwing their weight fully behind the campaign, the number of supporters is expected to keep on growing.
Robert Ogden, of Ogden’s jewellers, a family business since 1893, said free parking was not the only way to stop the increasing number of empty shops and closure signs in Harrogate but it would have the quickest effect.
Mr Ogden said: “If nothing is done soon, the knock-on effects of losing more town centre shops will be serious and experienced by everyone in the community, and local industries including the property
The campaign has been bouyed by a new survey carried out recently by Harrogate BID (Business Improvement District) showed 70 per cent of the 144 town centre traders who took part said they felt that “high” parking charges were a barrier to business.
Mr Ogden said: “In March this year figures show 9.9% of the town centr
e was boarded up but the new figure due in June is likely to be even greater.
"If there was more free parking, there would be an obvious loss in parking revenue on an immediate basis, but the gains to the local economy would surely mitigate this.”
Campaigners are now on their own marketing push emphasising the independents’ unique contribution to Harrogate’s strength as a destination.
Parking charges in Harrogate town centre have also come under the spotlight at a meeting between Harrogate BID (Business Improvement District) leaders and North Yorkshire County Council.
A total of 70 per cent of the 144 town centre traders who took part in the survey said they felt that “high” parking charges were a barrier to business.
BID chairman and interim manager, John Fox said: “We want to work with both the county and district councils in ensuring that any future changes to parking charges, both on street and off street, will not have a negative impact on the town centre.”