This is how dining and drinking could move outdoors when Harrogate hospitality businesses reopen

Roads, car parks and pavements could be used to free up social distancing space for hospitality businesses in the Harrogate district.

By Jacob Webster
Thursday, 18th June 2020, 12:15 pm
Updated Thursday, 18th June 2020, 12:37 pm

Council chiefs are to hold "urgent" talks on the idea to create space for outdoor seating and market-style set ups for cafes, restaurants and bars which are facing the tricky task of reopening safely in the next phase of lockdown measures being eased.

It is hoped those businesses will be able to reopen on July 4 - but that will depend on whether the government says it is safe to do so.

And it comes as ministers have dropped their strongest hints yet that the 2-meter rule could be reduced to take the pressure off businesses.

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Pavements, roads and car parks could be used by businesses under council plans.

Renewing his calls for some streets to be pedestrianised at a meeting last night, Coun Richard Cooper, leader of Harrogate Borough Council, said it will be difficult for firms to survive unless they are given more room to operate.

He said: "I am particularly concerned that when the hospitality industry reopens at the beginning of July - let's hope - even if it is with the one-meter distance, but at the moment as is it stands with a two-meter distance, it is going to be very, very difficult for some of those businesses to survive.

"And what I believe we should be encouraging our counterparts at the county to do, very strongly, is give businesses space where currently there is tarmac".

North Yorkshire County Council has already introduced barriers to widen footpaths for pedestrians in Harrogate, Knaresborough and Ripon.

The authority is responsible for roads, pavements and some car parks in the district, and businesses would require licenses to operate outside.

It is hoped the process of approving licenses could be sped up, but concerns have been raised over how quickly this can be done.

Members of Harrogate BID (Business Improvement District) are calling on the councils to temporarily lift the licensing restrictions.

The group's acting chair Sara Ferguson said: “We have already asked both authorities for their help in achieving this, but for them to do this, they need to take a bold and radical approach, and cut through the red tape.

“At the same time we can hopefully save a number of businesses that are currently under the threat of permanent closure, and the jobs that go with them".

The BID board says it is concerned that if the hospitality industry is not supported, there is a danger that Harrogate’s economy will be "irreparably damaged".

Its interim manager Simon Kent said: “Now the shops have opened, which is fantastic news – our focus is now fixed on the vital hospitality and leisure industry.

“People come to Harrogate for a variety of reasons. Some come to enjoy the tranquillity of the gardens and open spaces or to attend festivals, events and exhibitions, others the variety of shops.

"But for many the magnet is the wealth of pubs, bars and restaurants".

North Yorkshire County Council has been contacted for a comment.

By Jacob Webster, Local Democracy Reporter