Harrogate council makes request to pedestrianise James Street in festive run-up

A request to pedestrianise a key Harrogate shopping street in the town centre in the run-up to Christmas is being considered by North Yorkshire County Council.

Friday, 14th August 2020, 5:40 pm
James Street as it looks now - More pedestrianisation to rejuvenate Harrogate town centre and its retail sector is part of the Harrogate Town Centre Strategy it adopted in 2016.

North Yorkshire County Council confirmed today that Harrogate Borough Council was seeking permission from it as the highway authority to the temporary closure of James Street.

It is understood Harrogate Borough Council's primary reasons for pedestrianisation are:

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.

Coun Cooper said then: “I think space is the key issue and that is one reason why I would like to see James Street, Albert Street and Princes Square completely closed to traffic.

“That way there is room for cafes and restaurants to serve takeaways out of their premises and for more people to get nearer to the shops in which they wish to shop while maintaining social distancing.”

Although North Yorkshire County Council has not yet said 'yes' or 'no' to Harrogate' council's request for a temporary closure of James Street, it is already on record that as part of its recent successful bid to the Government's Transforming Cities Fund for the £7.9m Harrogate Gateway scheme, it includes partial closure of James Street.

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 it has send 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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