County council backs pedestrianisation of James Street in Harrogate in run-up to Christmas

North Yorkshire County Council has confirmed it is prepared to support a trial pedestrianisation of James Street in Harrogate town centre and has revealed the times it is likely to happen.

Monday, 17th August 2020, 5:49 pm
North Yorkshire County Council says it will be supporting Harrogate Borough Council's request for a temporary pedestrianisation of James Street in Harrogate.

After discussing the idea with senior officers, North Yorkshire County Council's executive member for access, Coun Don Mackenzie said, as the local highway authority, the council would be supporting Harrogate Borough Council's request for a temporary pedestrianisation of the key shopping street as part of the run-up to the festive period.

Coun Mackenzie said: "North Yorkshire County Council as Local Highway Authority is prepared to support a trial pedestrianisation of James Street from the Princes Street junction eastwards to the A61 Station Parade.

"We recommend that this partial closure be implemented by means of an experimental traffic regulation order, and be effective daily between 10.00 and 16.30. The trial will be monitored weekly.

"There are hospitality businesses in this section of James Street, which could benefit from the additional space, which the closure would provide.

"Furthermore, if this partial closure proves to work well, and if it is found to be popular with the general public and businesses, full pedestrianisation of James Street can be considered. Such a step would require a process of consultation.

"As far as that part of James Street is concerned which would remain open to traffic, the suspension of parking bays to support social distancing will remain in place. Our highways team will continue to liaise with counterparts at Harrogate Borough Council regarding the use of more suitable and attractive alternatives to cones for this purpose.

"The highways team has already arranged a meeting with a Harrogate Borough Council officer for later this month in order to discuss the details of the introduction of the trial partial closure, which could be in place as early as next month.

"For my part, I look forward to our meeting later this week on the subject of the TCF Harrogate Gateway scheme, in which proposals for James Street play a significant role"

Harrogate Borough Council has argued that the temporary pedestrianisation of James Street was necessary for the following reasons:

1. To enhance social distancing for shoppers.

2. To increase safety for pedestrians after anecotal evidence that speeds along James Street have increased since the road was partially coned off to prevent parking as drivers no longer need to be cautious of car doors opening or of pedestrians walking between parked cars.

3. To give a potential boost to footfall for town centre shops and businesses in the run-up to Christmas as the town's economy recovers from the impact of Covid and lockdown.

Harrogate Borough Council’s view that closing of James Street to vehicles (or part thereof) will be of significant benefit to shoppers, visitors and the businesses located on that street is far from a new departure.

The request is far from a shock move to anyone who has followed recent events.

More pedestrianisation to rejuvenate Harrogate town centre and its retail sector is part of the Harrogate Town Centre Strategy it adopted in 2016.

And less than two months ago, Harrogate Borough Council leader Coun Richard Cooper told the Harrogate Advertiser he wanted to pedestrianise three streets in the town centre.

Furthermore, the county council is on record as saying that, as part of the Harrogate Gateway scheme, it intends to consult on the road closure in the near future.

Harrogate Business Improvement District (BID) has not yet given its reaction to the idea but on Friday it sent out an urgent request to its members across the town centre to consult them before making an official response.

No matter how it plays out, Harrogate Borough Council's move is certain to reignite existing divisions inside Harrogate's anxious business community over the parking and pedestrianisation issue.

Independent Harrogate, whose membership rose to more than 200 after it was formed as a business pressure group last year, is strongly opposed to the pedestrianisation of James Street, in particular, because it says it would be a disaster for footfall and business.

In fact, IH favours increasing the amount of free parking for shoppers in Harrogate town centre to boost the economy out of lockdown.

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