Dear Reader: New housing battle between town & country

The Harrogate Advertiser's Graham Chalmers.
The Harrogate Advertiser's Graham Chalmers.

A personal column by the Harrogate Advertiser's Graham Chalmers

Where does town end and country begin?

Harrogate Golf Club.

Harrogate Golf Club.

And what happens if the line moves?

In years to come will the view at the top of Starbeck High Street still be blessed with the greens and bunkers of Harrogate Golf Club or will it be dominated by the cars and lorries of a new bypass?

It’s an important question for Harrogate and, I must confess, for me personally.

For my front door lies just 20 yards or so from the golfers I spy occasionally enjoying a beverage at the 19th hole.

I’d like to think if a major new road was to bulldoze its way through the wonderful Nidd Gorge and the esteemed golf club and my little house it would be in the cause of reducing traffic congestion.

But recently I read a new document issued by North Yorkshire County Council with the title ‘A Strategic Transport Prospective for North Yorkshire.’

Its main concern doesn’t seem to be our awful traffic jams at commuter time but to ensure Harrogate is not left behind in ‘The Northern Powerhouse’, that dramatic phrase built on mostly words so far.

Specifically, the aim seems to be ensure that if there is to be “increased East-West connectivity” between Lancashire and Yorkshire, an alternative M62, if you like, that Harrogate isn’t sidelined.

Not that I’m one to stand in the way of change for its own sake.

As a young boy in Scotland I well remember my surprise during a day’s daring exploration when I came across an abandoned farm in the middle of town standing like an ancient relic amid newly-built rows of grey two-storey council houses.

I happily played on the rusty agricultural machinery all day without shedding a tear.

As a newcomer to Harrogate of more than 30 years standing, I’ve always thought the town had more of a rural character than its largely Victorian streets suggest.

By that I don’t mean the elegant horses that occasionally trot across the Stray or the lumbering tractors which can be seen trundling along Otley Road and Knaresborough Road during harvest time.

Seen from a distance, the towering modernity of The Exchange (formerly Copthall Tower), Harrogate Convention Centre and Park Place apartments are swallowed up like twigs by the rolling valleys of the Dales.

And some of the best rock bands the district has produced over the years - Wally, The Birdman Rallies and Magna Carta - have a pastoral feel with lyrics blending rural and urban themes.

Perhaps, this shouldn’t come as any surprise.

With the exception of its famous spa water, Harrogate is largely a 19th century invention. Scratch the surface and its roots are shallow.

It’s really not so long ago that this town was all country.