New cycle path for Harrogate all along Knaresborough Road to town centre?
After years of talk about doing something about the transport system in Harrogate town centre, something truly significant may be about to happen.
The Transforming Cities Fund may not sound like the sexiest phrase in the world but it could mean major development is on its way for a key street in the town centre.
If a multi-million pound bid for part of that funding pot of Government money, submitted by North Yorkshire County Council with detailed input by Harrogate Borough Council, does prove successful then life for cyclists, motorists, passengers and pedestrians in the town centre will change radically.
Nearly ten years in the making, nothing is yet guaranteed but the odds on Harrogate winning a chunk of a national £2.45 billion set aside by the Department of Transport look promising at a time when political pressure to deliver on the concept of the “Northern Powerhouse” has never been greater.
Coun Don Mackenzie, North Yorkshire County Council’s executive member for access, who has been involved not only with Harrogate’s bid but simultaneous bids by Selby and Skipton, too, said the Government could choose to reject all the proposals or cherry pick parts of them come decision time in early spring.
It’s why no firm figure can yet be trumpeted. It could be anything from £7 million to £14 million - or neither.
But the local authorities involved in West Yorkshire’s application have not got this far with failure in their minds.
They’ve already had to surmount a rigorous shortlist stage. Coun Mackenzie, said, Harrogate’s submission had been designed carefully to offer high value for money and tick all the right boxes.
Coun Don Mackenzie, said: “I have personally been present at all meetings at West Yorkshire Combined Authority involving elected members.
“We are pleased that the three bids for North Yorkshire have been successfully included in the submission by West Yorkshire Combined Authority. We need to bear in mind that we are at the bid stage only, and whilst we think our bids are very strong and persuasive, there is no guarantee of funding.
“But the plans marry up with our ambitions to support a dynamic and successful economy, to boost growth and to encourage more sustainable travel choices by upgrading key transport gateways.”
Despite being part of Leeds City Region, Harrogate has had to fight hard to have its proposals included in West Yorkshire Combined Authority’s overall bid for £1.28bn to improve productivity by investing in transport infrastructure in parts of North Yorkshire and the wider region.
If that sounds dull on paper, the outcome in reality would be anything but.
Perhaps the most startling change proposed is the creation of a truly safe and segregated cycle path separate to car traffic all the way along Knaresborough Road on both sides of the highway from Knaresborough via Starbeck onto Station Parade, Victoria Avenue and beyond.
But that is by no means the only major change people will see.
Anyone who thought Harrogate council had given up on its long-held vision for a Town Centre Masterplan may be forced to think again.
The criteria for the Transforming Cities Fund puts business high in the list, improving productivity by investing in transport infrastructure.
Harrogate’s ambitious plans do aim to support business in the Station Parade area and boost the retail sector but also tackle a whole range of other pressing issues linked to Harrogate’s carbon reductions targets and the aesthetic look of the town centre:
Creating an “iconic gateway” for visitors at Harrogate’s rail and bus stations
Improving the links from those stations for pedestrians and making the area more walker-friendly. Ending the divide between Station Parade and the rest of the town centre.
Although there will be no ban on cars, the emphasis will be on increasing bicycle use and supporting sustainable transport.
Should the Department of Transport say ‘yes’, Harrogate Borough Council’s cabinet member for sustainable transport, believes Harrogate can finally start to transform its town centre for the better.
Coun Phil Ireland, said: “If approved, it will address some of our key priorities around both sustainable transport and supporting the regeneration of the Station Parade area.
“Should the project receive funding, I look forward to discussing the opportunities in much more detail with residents and businesses.”