Dear Reader: No wheel of fortune at UCIs + new housing storing up trouble for all Harrogate

A personal column by the Harrogate Advertiser's Graham Chalmers

Thursday, 31st October 2019, 11:15 am

The day dawned, the sun shone and Harrogate was transformed.

The helicopters overhead and UCI vehicles flooding the streets said one of the world’s greatest sporting events had arrived in town.

It was glorious to be on West Park and the Fan Zone in Harrogate on Saturday.

I absolutely loved it.

But, in my opinion, it wasn’t as busy as when the town hosted the Tour de France’s Grand Depart in 2014, the day which fired the starter’s pistol on Yorkshire’s reputation as an international centre for cycling.

Worryingly, there seemed to be a distinct lack of footfall in the town centre.

Since the weekend, complaints have come into the Harrogate Advertiser as fast as the top cyclists racing so impressively round our streets.

Not so much about road closures, though there have been a few, more about visitor numbers or lack of them.

I did overhear an overseas couple on the eve of the event ask directions in Harrogate to somewhere that did “proper food - potatoes and meat.”

But, in general, local businesses say trading has been very quiet so far.

It shouldn’t be forgotten there are still four days to go and this massive event with such a distinguished history only ever really gets into it full swing towards the end.

I was chatting to an Olympic gold medal-winning cyclist in the Zwift Draft House pop-up bar on King’s Road in Harrogate Tuesday, as you do when such a an important event just happens to be in town.

He seemed to have no particular axe to grind and clearly knew what he was talking about.

“Right now,” he said, “there’s only 20 per cent of the cycling fans here that turn up for the races still to come.”

On a good day it’s possible to see the White Horse on the distant hills from the houses on Kingsley Drive in Harrogate.

It’s a residential area but it’s always had a rural feel, thanks to the fields in front of it leading to the Bilton-Ripley bridleway and the Nidd Gorge.

Currently it, and its neighbouring streets of Kingsley Road and Bogs Lane are facing six separate new housing developments.

If the results were simply the end of the fields where people walk their dogs and deer are sighted, occasionally, a shrug of the shoulders might seem a fair reaction on these hard-hearted times.

But the total of nearly 700 new houses is likely to have a knock-on effect on all of us in at least one way.

Many of the new residents will bring at least one car with them, if not two or maybe even three.

The area they are moving into is already ill served by roads, a labyrinth of tightly laid-out streets feeding directly into the queues of traffic along the length of Knaresborough Road.

Talking to one of the residents outside her house, I spy someone far in the distance in the tall yellowing grass of the field across the road.

It turns out to be a neighbour walking her dog.

But that isn’t what I see.

What I see is the end of one way of life and the beginning of something worse.