Ten key questions answered on Harrogate Gateway project for town centre roads
When councillors voted to throw out the idea of a new inner relief road for Harrogate at Nidd Gorge in October 2019 it turned out to be the start of the story, not the end.
The search for a solution to Harrogate’s traffic congestion has somehow ended in Gateway, the £10.9 million project for the Station Parade area which promises a greener and nicer town centre but has divided opinion from the beginning.
The closer the project gets to becoming a reality, the more opponents have tried to muddy the waters
So what is going on with Gateway?
Why is the Gateway project happening?
The idea first began nearly four years ago as a way of local transport authority North Yorkshire County Council responding to public concern over growing traffic congestion on Harrogate’s roads.
But, in these days of the climate emergency, that inevitably meant taking into account the environment, including achieving Harrogate’s publicly set targets for reducing local carbon emissions.
This was bolstered in 2019 when North Yorkshire County Council’s Harrogate Congestion Study Public Engagement process showed the vast majority who took part wanted to see sustainable solutions to the town’s traffic problems, not more roads.
With the backing of Harrogate Borough Council, North Yorkshire County Council joined the West Yorkshire Combined Authority’s bid for Government funding to tackle traffic in a way that would also tackle climate change.
What is the Gateway project trying to achieve?
At a basic level, Gateway promises major changes on how people get about in the area next to Harrogate’s train and bus station at Station Parade, Cheltenham Parade, East Parade and James Street are planned with the aim of:
Creating a ‘Gateway’ for the town with high-quality, sustainable transport links.
Providing an accessible, attractive and cleaner alternative to car journeys with a shift towards more sustainable travel choices such as walking, cycling and using public transport
Positively enhancing and improving the look and feel of the Station Parade area for the benefit of residents, businesses and visitors.
What are the main changes outlined in the Gateway project?
In an effort to create more space for, and give priority to, pedestrians and cyclists in Harrogate town centre with new cycle paths and public areas, Gateway envisages:
Reducing vehicle traffic to one lane on Station Parade.
The pedestrianisation of James Street.
New cycle lanes on both sides of Station Parade.
A new Dutch-style roundabout at the Odeon.
Making One Arch and Station Square more attractive.
Has there been much consultation with the public about the Gateway project?
Once it got the backing of councillors and won £10.9m in Government funding, North Yorkshire County Council undertook a public consultation on its Gateway plans in February - March 2021
The public feedback received, showing a three-way splits on parts of the plans, was then used to inform the updated designs for the scheme which saw the idea of pedestrianisation of James Street watered down to a partial car ban.
It is the revised version of Gateway which has just gone through a second public consultation process which ran from October 18-November 12, 2021, including an detailed online survey available to all.
Is the Gateway project popular?
Not only has every public consultation conducted by North Yorkshire County Council over the last three years shown sustainable transport options are the most popular, the Harrogate Advertiser’s own public survey in February 2021 which attracted 700 respondees showed the same result.
But when it comes to the views of local businesses on Gateway, the majority of respondees oppose most of it.
A joint poll conducted by Harrogate District Chamber of Commerce, Harrogate BID and Independent Harrogate in September 2021 showed 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 vehicular traffic.
What are the most common objections to the Gateway project?
While supporting sustainable transport in principle and improvements to Harrogate town centre, traders who’ve spoken out fear less cars will also mean fewer shoppers.
They also argue restricting car use will create congestion on neighbouring roads.
One suggestion to ease congestion is to leave traffic on Station Parade as it is, bring back two-way traffic on the A61 at Parliament Street and relocate new cycle lanes to East Parade.
Who is paying for the Gateway project?
In a word, the Government. The funding to pay for Gateway was granted by the West Yorkshire Combined Authority, which was set up by national Government to bring together local councils in the Leeds City Region area to bid for funds from the Transforming Cities Fund (TCF), a major programme of investment across the country costing £2.45 billion aimed at improving productivity by investing in public and sustainable transport infrastructure in English cities.
Could most of the plan be thrown out and the money spent on something else?
The schemes funded through TCF need to fit specific criteria and be delivered by March 2023 or lose funding.
North Yorkshire Council points out any totally new options would most likely introduce prohibitive time, cost and funding implications.
A new application for funds would be impossible. Applications for the fund were closed for good by the Government in 2018.
Has bringing back two-way traffic to Parliament Street on the A61 been considered as part of Gateway and, if not, why not?
Despite demands for a feasibility study into the A61 idea - and murmerings of a ‘judicial review’ should this not happen - North Yorkshire County Council says not only would this cost far more than the £10,9m set aside for Gateway but it would fly in the face of what the Gateway funding bid promised and would delay the whole project to such an extent it would be scuppered.
It also admits it did not investigate the A61 idea at all, partly, it says, because the Gateway bid was designed to reduce traffic congestion and cut carbon emissions in the town centre without the need to touch the A61.
Will the Gateway project actually happen?
Despite threats by lone Harrogate businesses to apply for a judicial review should Gateway go ahead in its current form, North Yorkshire County Council is confident of winning as it has, it says, followed procedure at all times.
It maintains Gateway was and will be guided by the results of public consultation.
So far, consultation has supported most of the Gateway options and, if that continues, the project seems certain to carry on.
The results of last month’s consultation are now being evaluated and the revised Gateway designs will be finalised by the end of 2021 ahead of a final decision on implementation of the scheme by the county council executive in early 2022.
Should it get the go-ahead, it is anticipated that construction of the scheme will begin in spring 2022 and will last approximately 12 months.
Harrogate Gateway: A timeline
November 2017: A comprehensive report into Harrogate and Knaresborough’s huge traffic congestion issues commissioned by North Yorkshire County Council it highlighted two relief road routes as achieving the most benefits - both of which would go through the Nidd Gorge.
July, 2019: More than 15,000 people fill in the Harrogate Congestion Study survey as part of consultation on traffic congestion in Knaresborough and Harrogate by North Yorkshire County Council.
A total of 78 per cent of respondents – 12,000 people – opposed a Nidd Gorge relief road.
A total of 77% supported improving cycling and walking infrastructure.
November 2019: North Yorkshire submits bid for Transport for Cities funding to Government as part of West Yorkshire Combined Authority in partnership with the 10 local authorities across the Leeds City Region.
March 2020: The Government allocates £7.9m to North Yorkshire County Council for the Gateway project. This is later raised to £10.9m.
February 2021: North Yorkshire County Council launches public consultation for a range of Gateway design proposals on Station Parade and adjoining streets.
October 2021: North Yorkshire County Council launches second public consultation on a revised version of Gateway.
December 2021: Deadline for designs for Gateway plans.
Early 2022: Final decision on Gateway.
April 2022: Work set to start.
March 2023: Work to finish.