Harrogate pedestrianisation: Transport chief pledges Gateway plans will help town centre and businesses

A leading councillor is calling on hostile Harrogate businesses to back the controversial £7.9 million Gateway project and support the town’s move to a greener future.

Friday, 28th May 2021, 9:29 am
Updated Friday, 28th May 2021, 9:36 am
How a pedestrianised James Street would look: The latest public consultation in Harrogate found 45% of people were in favour of the full pedestrianisation of James Street while 17% backed a partial pedestrianisation.

Coun Don Mackenzie said this week he understood people’s feelings but insisted the outcome of a series of new sustainable transport policies would be a better town centre for customers, visitors and traders.

Coun Mackenzie said: “We have been lobbied quite strongly by the business community in Harrogate of whom one or two members seem to think the Gateway scheme is intended to make life more difficult for them,” said North Yorkshire County Council’s executive member for access.

“Those comments could not be further from the truth. The whole purpose behind the Gateway scheme is to make town centres more attractive to visitors, especially those who want to come and spend money in our shops, restaurants and pubs.”

The £7.9m project is part of the Government’s Transforming Cities Fund and is aiming to create a more attractive entrance to the town with greater priority for pedestrians and cyclists.

The latest public consultation in Harrogate found 45% of 1,101 respondents were in favour of the full pedestrianisation of James Street, 17% backed a partial pedestrianisation and 32% said no changes should be made.

For Station Parade, 49% favoured an option to reduce traffic to one lane, while 27% said it should be retained as two lanes and 24% said neither option was workable.

Also included in the plans are cycle lanes for East Parade as well as improvements to public spaces at One Arch and Station Square - which all received positive feedback from the public.

But its commitment to progressing with both the Gateway project in the Station Parade area and a new feasibility study into improving sustainable transport options in the Oatlands area, the county council faces an uphill battle to persuade an increasingly vociferous section of the business community and the public that it has got it right on sustainable transport.

In a recent joint-statement, Harrogate BID, Harrogate District Chamber of Commerce and Independent Harrogate said they were “disappointed that our collective voices have not been listened to” and that they felt what is being proposed will have a “hugely damaging effect” on trade.

This came after the county council published a report which said the impact on parking in Harrogate town centre would be kept to a minimum with just 45 out of the current 915 parking paces under threat.

Harrogate businesses behind pressure group Independent Harrogate have long argued the town centre needs to retain both cars and parking spaces whatever happens.

IH says it is supportive of the proposed Station Gateway project and sustainable transport plans in general but it has serious concerns over their potential negative impact on the town centre economy.

While not being ‘anti-cycling’, Independent Harrogate argues that:

Current plans will deter some people from coming to the town centre

Reducing double to single lanes is proven to increase congestion

How can carbon emissions come down when more cars are standing still on narrower throughways?

In the interest of not increasing congestion and carbon emissions, Station Parade should remain two lanes

James Street should remain open to car traffic but IH supports its narrowing at the junction with Station Parade to improve pedestrian access

Cyclists should be directed on to East Parade with good links to York Place and beyond, particularly routed through roads that are in low traffic neighbourhoods, allowing for safe cycling on quieter roads

There is a need for comprehensive park and ride schemes and far more electric car charging points.

In terms of the Gateway project, rurther public consultation will now take place in autumn following the development of detailed designs and a business case.

If approved, construction could begin in summer 2022 with completion by March 2023.

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