Call for ‘radical’ plan to prevent Harrogate from further decline as Lib Dems join debate

Liberal Democrat Prospective Parliamentary Candidate Judith Rogerson has had her say on the state of Harrogate.
Liberal Democrat Prospective Parliamentary Candidate Judith Rogerson has had her say on the state of Harrogate.

Harrogate’s Lib Dem candidate for the next election has called for a ‘radical long-term’ strategy to revive the town centre.

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As readers letters continue to arrive as part of the Harrogate Advertiser’s ‘State of Harrogate’ series, Judith Rogerson, Lib Dem Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for Harrogate & Knaresborough, said the voices of concern needed to be taken seriously.

Reacting to a comment in last week’s Harrogate Advertiser by MP Andrew Jones that the town “was not going down hill”, she said: “Andrew Jones rejected the suggestion that our area is going down hill.

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“I feel very lucky to live in Harrogate town centre – it is a wonderful place with much to be positive about.

“But we cannot become complacent and need to listen to the concerns of local residents and businesses.”

Impatience for action to improve the town centre shows no signs of easing.

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One reader this week who moved to the town three years ago said she had noticed a “dramatic decline in the last six to nine months” in terms of crime, tidiness and empty shops.

But local authorities and business leaders say they are currently working towards improvements.

Harrogate Borough Council leader Coun Richard Cooper, who has joined councillors recently on volunteering missions to tidy up streets in the town centre, said action was starting to be taken to solve the problems.

He said: “We have seen recently talk about whether or not the town is in decline. I don’t agree that it is.

“We have had a problem with street begging but by working together, various local charities, the police, traders, the council and local businesses are working to sort that out. But if people want Harrogate to be even better then let’s get together and make it happen.”

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Coun Cooper is now calling on members of the public to join the volunteers in clean-up missions on a Sunday evening at 6pm by emailing him.

Harrogate’s recently-created BID team, financed by a levy on local businesses, has appointed Elizabeth Murphy, former BID manager for Wakefield, as its manager and she has just begun her new role this month.

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Harrogate BID will issue the latest edition of Harrogate Eat:Drink Guide next week to promote local bars, cafes and restaurants. But Judith Rogerson said Harrogate town centre needed more than “a quick lick of paint.”

She said: “What is needed is a strategy with input from Harrogate Borough Council, North Yorkshire County Council, the BID, businesses and residents. This should involve some radical, long-term thinking, including the business rates system. How can we best make use of empty premises? It needs a carefully thought out plan.”

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