Harrogate ‘must become a world class destination’ - debate rumbles on about future of town centre

Debate continues on the future of Harrogate town centre as the country emerges from the coronavirus lockdown, with many Advertiser readers having their say and putting forward ideas.
16th june 2020
Valley Gardens Harrogate
Pictured a busy Valley Gardens
Picture Gerard Binks16th june 2020
Valley Gardens Harrogate
Pictured a busy Valley Gardens
Picture Gerard Binks
16th june 2020 Valley Gardens Harrogate Pictured a busy Valley Gardens Picture Gerard Binks

Among those to contribute an opinion on our letters pages this week was Geoff Dunning, of Harrogate, who said: “Coming out of the chaos that has been caused by the totally unexpected disruption resulting from the Covid pandemic creates opportunities.
“The circumstances are unprecedented and the survival of many businesses will be difficult, if not impossible, but this means that the town must become a world class destination for culture, shopping, leisure and business visitors and residents alike. 
“Sitting on our hands and spending month after month or year after year debating options is not an option.
“We need to maximise the opportunity that is presented by the support that is being given to the town and the district.
“Harrogate deserves it.”
Chris Batley, of Harrogate, came up with three main action points for the town centre.
He said: “We need to make sure the town is clean and in pristine condition.
“There should be a standard for landlords with empty units to adhere to with hoardings put up on empty units and painted in a required colour.
“Second, tourist information, Harrogate BID, independent retail groups and all other business and commerces should be shouting from the rooftops of the glory that is Harrogate, instead of fighting among themselves for recognition and prestige.
“Third, we must encourage locals and tourists alike to enjoy and spend in Harrogate, by making parking as available as possible, as cheap as possible and as convenient as possible.
“It would send a message to everyone that Harrogate is open for business.”
John Abel, of Harrogate, said: “If our climate was sub-tropical, then there may be some merit in bringing music and outdoor eating to some paved over areas in Harrogate.
“However, for perhaps seven months each year it isn’t.
“And do our leaders seriously expect to see many cyclists biking to work on windy and wet days and during the long dark winter days, because I don’t.”  
Christopher Butterworth, of Harrogate, called for the formation of a Town Team to oversee plans for the town centre. 
He said: “Harrogate is a wonderful, if presently economically threatened, place.
“There are lots of excellent ideas around, but they need to be woven into a workable whole to reverse the current downward trajectory.  
“Harrogate’s success in the past was built on health giving waters, fresh air, a beautiful environment, high-quality shopping and tourism.
“This can happen again.
“However, this will need common sense, compromise and co-operation, and everyone pulling together in the same direction.    
“Let’s have a Town Team, with no-one having an overriding voice, ASAP.”  
Much of the conversation about the future of the town centre has involved proposed pedestrianisation of streets, and more priority given to cyclists.
Patricia Perry, of Kirkby Overblow, said: “The motorist seems to have become alienated in favour of plans for pedestrianisation, cycle lanes, complex traffic flows and elimination of town centre parking.
“Cycling is a healthy form of exercise for some residents living closer to the town but is not ideal for grocery/clothes shopping etc.
“Neither is it at all appropriate for both the elderly and infirm residents and those who live in villages and areas out of town.
“Perhaps, therefore it has become essential to consider putting in place ‘Park and Ride schemes’ - suggested locations could be eg Buttersyke Bar: Killinghall Area: Wetherby Road (near the Kestrel Pub).
“Other sites may be preferred as there would only be room for say two or three, but they would certainly attract visitors to the town.”  
David Mason, of Harrogate, said: “There are many Harrogate residents, myself included, who would love to be able to cycle or walk to the shops but I am no longer physically able to do so. 
“Being able to park in reasonable proximity to the town centre shops is therefore very important to me and I would much prefer to spend my money in Harrogate’s shops than stare at my computer screen and purchase stuff online.”
Roderick Beardshall, of Harrogate, said: “The success of our town cannot rely on it continuing to be strangled by the private car.
“We must be confident and ambitious that we have greater attractions to offer visitors than cheap town centre parking!”
To read the full debate, pick up a copy of today’s Harrogate Advertiser for three pages of letters on the future of the town centre.
And share your views - email [email protected] 

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