Harrogate council leader Richard Cooper reveals priorities for 2019

Leader of Harrogate Borough Council, Coun Richard Cooper.
Leader of Harrogate Borough Council, Coun Richard Cooper.

Identifying the best way to tackle Harrogate’s congestion, improving the town’s offering to tourists and addressing root causes of homelessness are all high on the list for Harrogate Borough Council leader Councillor Richard Cooper in 2019.

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While 2018 has been a busy year for the council, Coun Cooper said the upcoming year brought with it a raft of new challenges and opportunities.

Councillors and staff had little time to settle into their new headquarters at St Luke’s Mount late last year before being pitched into council elections in May.

The Conservatives retained the political balance on council with a huge majority, with Coun Cooper returning as leader.

Among the key issues he identified for 2019 would be addressing the town’s congestion – with several studies and consultations into the issue set to conclude in the first half of the new year.

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“My view is well-known – we need to prioritise sustainable transport measures. No-one should believe that sustainable transport measures are an easy way to avoid more roads in our countryside,” he said.

“It may mean higher parking charges, bus-only routes on main roads, town centre pedestrianisation, space used by motorists being taken for cyclists and other measures. It is not the easy answer but it is the right one.”

Further improving the experience of conference and exhibition visitors to secure return bookings for the Convention Centre was also a priority, he said, as well as ensuring the district’s award-winning parks and gardens were at peak bloom in the run up to the UCI Road World Race Cycle Championships in September.

He added that he will ask the council’s scrutiny committee and Harrogate Homeless Project to undertake a major piece of work on the root causes of local homelessness and begging.

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“I want to know how best we, as a community, can offer even more support to combat often deep-seated medical and emotional issues which affect many homeless people and street-beggars,” he said.

Of the last year, Coun Cooper pinpointed supporting local charities, moving to the new headquarters and the roll out of the green garden waste collection scheme as highlight.

“There are many more important things we have done – supporting charities and voluntary groups by launching the Local Fund and the Local Lotto, contributing £20,000 to the castle lighting scheme at Knaresborough, supporting Ripon and Knaresborough markets while reducing traders’ rents and sponsoring two new environmental responsibility awards at the Ackrill

Business Awards are among them,” he said.

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The roll out of the green garden waste collection scheme, the commencement of work on Ripon’s new pool, the continuation of a £150,000 funding scheme to support the long-term homeless back into accommodation and the submission of the local plan were other 2018 wins.

There was little time for rest over Christmas too – with streets in all of the district’s major retails area (including Ripon, Masham, Boroughbridge, Knaresborough and Starbeck) receiving a deep cleaning ahead of Christmas.

Lachlan Leeming , Local Democracy Reporting Service