Major Harrogate town centre traffic shake-up still on the agenda

Harrogate’s local authorities say the Covid crisis will not deflect them from a vision of a 'green' town centre based on new park and rides and greater priority for cyclists and pedestrians.

Thursday, 30th July 2020, 9:43 am
Updated Thursday, 30th July 2020, 9:46 am
Harrogate's congestion problem - Busy traffic on Wetherby Road is an example of the situation facing the push to cut the town's carbon emissions and restructure the town centre in a less car-dominated way.

Both Harrogate Borough Council and North Yorkshire Council told the Harrogate Advertiser they remain committed to a sustainable transport future and a restructuring of the Station Parade area even in the midst of the potential upheaval of regional devolution and the financial problems caused by lockdown.

Neither of them deny the timetable for fundamental changes built on work which started last year is dependent on government funding and the evolving picture on the pandemic.

But both say the commitment to both the ‘Gateway’ project and park and rides - a 'green' Harrogate town centre with lower carbon emissions - has not weakened.

Coun Don Mackenzie, North Yorkshire County Council’s executive member for access, said: “The Gateway vision is very much alive and I am hoping that, with Harrogate Borough Council, we will be in a position to soon be able to share details of what the scheme entails, both for the public highway but also for other public spaces on Station Parade and nearby.

“Park and ride sites are still very much under consideration as part of the response to the Harrogate Congestion Study public engagement.”

Harrogate Borough Council says it remains “extremely keen” on a greener town centre, though it is acutely aware of the funding issues and the likely opposition to pedestrianisation from parts of the business community.

Coun Phil Ireland, Harrogate council’s cabinet member for carbon reduction and sustainability, said: “We very much support projects which contribute to carbon reduction but, as always it depends on suitable funding opportunities which are more likely to be via the county council.

“In terms of park and rides, the use of buses would need to get back to normality before it could become effective.”

There had been speculation that the partial failure at the start of the year of the county council’s bid for a sizable slice of the Department of Transport’s £1.28 billion Transforming Cities Fund drawn up in liaison with Harrogate Borough Council had derailed the entire process.

County councillor Don Mackenzie admitted it would have some impact.

He said: “The Transforming Cities Fund award to the Harrogate Gateway Bid amounted to £7.8m plus a small contribution from the county council. This sum was well below the maximum that was bid for - £14m - but this reduction was not unusual.

“Because of the lower award, some components of the higher value bid are not included, the segregated cyclepath from Knaresborough to Harrogate. As for park and ride sites these are, of course, expensive to construct, and generally cost taxpayers substantial sums to run.”

But Harrogate Borough Council, too, is intent on making progress on a 'green' town centre and expects to consult the public on the plans, possibly before the end of 2020.

A spokesperson for Harrogate Borough Council said: “We’ve long held an ambition to improve the station gateway area of Harrogate town centre.

“We wish to transform it for the many people who use it every day, which is reflected in the town centre masterplan adopted by the council in 2016.

“It would see cyclists, pedestrians and sustainable travel being made a priority.

“The scheme will drive the district’s post-coronavirus economic recovery and, by providing easier access to public transport, help hit carbon reduction ambitions.

“There is still a lot of work to do to develop formal proposals, but when they are ready later this year, we will consult on them.”

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