'Frustration' over new Knaresborough retail inquiry

The announcement of a Conservative inquiry into the health of retail in Knaresborough has sparked frustration, as town councillors say '˜hundreds of hours' of research  is already available.

Knaresborough Town Council and others have questioned the role of the group
Knaresborough Town Council and others have questioned the role of the group

MP Andrew Jones (Harrogate and Knaresborough) and conservative councillors launched the ‘Knaresborough Retail Inquiry’ this week, distributing a survey to every home for views on the state of the High Street and market in the town.

It follows the announcement by Harrogate Borough Council in December that a working group on Knaresborough and Ripon markets, with an unrestricted membership, will be formed in February.

By collecting views through the survey Mr Jones says he is aiming for all residents to have their say, with the data collected to be made publicly available.

He said: “Knaresborough’s market is part of the town’s DNA, I want to make sure that the borough council, with their working group, is informed by the people of Knaresborough, so this is not a parallel group. “

He added: “I am a Conservative MP and this is a Conservative initiative, but not perspective. The survey is going to every single resident. The party helped with the delivery of this (survey) to everyone of them, irrespective of political views.

“I think with the swift responses this topic struck a chord with people. I want to see the market thrive, part of this is making sure distribution is done and informing people.” However Knaresborough Town Council have said this research has already been done in developing it’s Neighbourhood Plan.

Mayor of Knaresborough, Coun David Goode, said the news of the inquiry ‘starting from scratch’ was frustrating.“We have already spent hundreds of hours collecting this information, with this it’s almost as if they are making it look like nothing has been done.“Hard working businesses, residents and councillors have already taken part and we wrote to every household. The fact they now put this forward and get involved is almost as if they were trying to reinvent the wheel.

He added: “This is repeating the work already done here and giving no credit to local residents.I have to ask why not work with us on solutions rather than starting from scratch.“It is frustrating to see this and the lack of recognition for the work already done.”

The Knaresborough Chamber of Trade has called the move ‘a publicity stunt’ in the run up to the Local Elections in May.President, Stephen Teggin, said that with information already available the focus should be on what steps are taken to improve the market.He said: “This is purely and simply a publicity stunt for the elections, as if they spear headed the changes when they come. It’s just politics.”He added: “Lets have a focus on getting the market back on track and lets just get on with it.”

Leader of HBC, Coun Richard Cooper, says it has not yet been provided the town council’s data but welcomes both sets to support improvements in the district.He said: “The Retail Inquiry, which I have seen, will provide invaluable information about the public’s shopping habits and views of Knaresborough highlighting areas that any conclusions on the future of the market and the High Street will need to address.”