Harrogate Gateway: 'Too late for new options' now as leader rejects A61 idea

The North Yorkshire councillor leading the £10.9 million Harrogate Gateway project says it would be “inappropriate” to  look at new options for transforming Harrogate town centre.

Thursday, 18th November 2021, 4:03 pm
Vehicle traffic on the A61 on Parliament Street/West Park in Harrogate has been one-way since 1970.

With construction work set to begin on new cycle paths and car restrictions in the Station Parade area next spring, North Yorkshire County Council is weighing up the results of the latest public consultation before unveiling the final designs for the project funded by the Government.

But Coun Don Mackenzie, the county council’s executive member for transport and elected councillor for Harrogate Saltergate division, said the time had passed for any radically different ideas, such as restoring two-way traffic on the A61 on Parliament Street.

And he revealed that no consideration to that idea had ever been part of the thinking on Gateway, partly because the envisaged changes and improvements to the Station Parade area could be achieved without doing so.

Coun Mackenzie said: “The modelling we undertook on traffic as part of the Gateway scheme predicted the existing network as continuing to function so it was never been necessary to look at other mitigations in the wider town.

“By the rules, the Gateway scheme had to be a sustainable transport-based scheme and, as it doesn’t require mitigation in the form of a reconfigured wider road network, it wasn’t possible to look wider.

“The A61 idea was never considered and the Parliament Street/West park area cannot be described as part of a Gateway scheme.”

Opponents of plans to restrict car traffic to one lane on Station Parade and pedestrianise James Street to facilitate the creation of new cycle lanes - which includes a significant number of Harrogate business owners - argue the A61 should be looked at.

But Coun Mackenzie said it was too late and would be too expensive.

Coun Mackenzie said: “At this late stage in the process and with two public consultations behind us, it would be inappropriate to introduce new options.

“The high level estimate of costs of reintroducing two-way traffic on the A61 is far beyond the budget we received.”

“Any totally new option would most likely introduce prohibitive time, cost and funding implications.

The final designs for Gateway will be finalised in time for a report early in 2022 to North Yorkshire County Counci’s executive, who will then make a decision on whether to proceed to construction.

The Government deadline for using - or losing -the £10.9m funding is March 2023.

What Harrogate Gateway opponents say

A poll of Harrogate businesses in September showed the vast majority of the approximately 180 out of 900 businesses who took part were against plans to reduce Station Parade to a single carriageway and to permanently close off James Street to traffic.

Conducted jointly by arrogate District Chamber of Commerce, Harrogate BID and Independent Harrogate, the poll result included:

75 per cent of businesses were against the full pedestrianisation of James Street.

72 per cent were against reducing the A61 – Cheltenham Mount to Station Bridge – to a single lane.

42 per cent in favour of two-way cycle lanes on Bower Road and East Parade to the Odeon roundabout.

74 per cent were in favour of improving the area in front of Victoria Shopping Centre with the potential to host a range of events.