MP says Harrogate is not 'going downhill'

When I hear of our area going downhill I dont agree" - Harrogate and Knaresborough MP Andrew Jones.
When I hear of our area going downhill I dont agree" - Harrogate and Knaresborough MP Andrew Jones.

Harrogate’s MP says the town can overcome its perceived toll of problems by working together.

Reacting to this newspaper’s recent series of articles on Harrogate’s ‘summer of discontent’, Andrew Jones MP said community action already taking place would ensure the storm would pass.

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Writing in this newspaper, the Harrogate and Knaresborough MP said he did not believe that the town was going downhill.

And he called for local groups to “stop sniping” and work together for the good of Harrogate.

Mr Jones said: “When I hear of our area going downhill I don’t agree.

“I’ve lived in the town centre since the late 1990s and, throughout that time, we have had our problems.

“But positive and constructive people came forward to work on them.

“The solutions to problems come when the public, local groups, the council, the local paper and other organisations align their objectives, stop sniping at one another and work together.”

The debate was triggered initially by readers expressing a raft of concerns over the what they said was the decline of the town centre.

The complaints included empty shop units, roadworks, county lines crime and incidents of anti-social behaviour, arson and violence.

The final straw for many was an increase in visible street begging and the arrival of a mini tent village at the back of Primark store.

But Mr Jones said the fact that action was already being taken to tackle the latter was a positive sign for the future.

He said: “The new Harrogate Street Aid initiative supported by Harrogate Homeless Project, the police, North Yorkshire Horizons and Harrogate Borough Council is a good example of constructive people finding solutions.

“The concept of tapping your card on a terminal in a shop window to donate a few pounds towards projects to help the nearby street beggar is fresh and innovative.

“This money can then be used by professionals to fund projects to help with mental and physical health issues, drug and alcohol dependency and other issues.”

While many civic figures in Harrogate have rallied in defence of the town’s reputation, there is no sign of a let-up in worries from readers of this newspaper.

One letter this week said Harrogate was still a fantastic place but it was an “undeniable fact” that itwas no longer a crown jewel of Yorkshire.

Mr Mark Fuller said he was so concerned he’d set up an online survey to engage the community over solutions to the issues that concern the town.

Mr Fuller said: ““Someone needs to remove the rose tinted glasses and say it like it is before the current state (of Harrogate) becomes the norm.”

With local groups like Harrogate BID and Harrogate Street Aid gearing up for action, the summer of discontent may turn out to be a shortlived crisis.

Andrew Jones MP, for one, believes the answers to the questions plaguing Harrogate lies in our own hands.

He said: “What our area needs is even more people like that so that the few who volunteer to benefit the many grow in number."

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