'Harrogate’s geographical location does not lend itself to an outdoor evening café society economy'

Harrogate town centre
Harrogate town centre

As the Advertiser's focus on the future of Harrogate town centre continues, readers have been sharing their feedback, highlighting the issues they feel need to be tackled, as well as proposing their ideas for improvements.

A Freeman, of Harrogate, said the town needs to adopt a "zero tolerance" approach to tackle anti-social behaviour.

"I would like to add to the debate about the decline of Harrogate and the summer of discontent. I am a 45-year-old female who moved here from London three years ago and have noticed a quite obvious and dramatic decline in the last six-nine months, much to my horror as I had been a frequent visitor to the town for 15 years before moving here, loved it with a passion and felt it was immune to the problems that other towns seemed to have.

"In particular I have noticed:

"1. Knife crime - obviously the two high profile cases but I have also noticed obvious County Lines drug dealing on the Stray (eg by the blossom trees in the broad daylight on a Sunday afternoon). I always found the Stray a safe place to walk or run - now I am having second thoughts.

"More police are needed on the Stray. In fact any police anywhere would be nice! More education in schools might also help to address drug issues among the young.

"2. Homeless - I know this has been addressed now - let’s hope it works.

"3. Shops - A year or so ago I was pleased to see the explosion of the real ale pubs and bars and independents. Places like The Starling, North Bar, Corner Haus etc are assets to the town. This is what people come to Harrogate for.

"However there are now so many closed shops! And many more businesses struggling and literally putting out cries for help on Facebook.

"Please reduce rates for these poor struggling businesses and make better use of the exhibition centre and hotels for events to bring people to town. It has been like a ghost town for much of the year.

"I noticed a positive difference this weekend with the crime writing festival and cafes and restaurants were noticably busier, which just goes to prove that more of these exhibitions are needed to bring people to the town.

I believe that with internet shopping and with Leeds so easy to get to, Harrogate needs to set itself apart and become a mecca for independents. But independents can only have a chance if rates are reduced. Some of the bigger shops like Top Shop need to be split into two or three smaller stores. Or more shops/stalls within shops - Camden Market style.

"Also entertainment spaces for some of the bigger retail spaces - experiences are where it is at - pool halls, table tennis (Bounce), darts (Flight Club), golf (Swingers) or even escape rooms are some of the things that London’s shops have been converted into to attract people into town.

"4. Weeds - these were left to grow like triffids this year. They have only just been done and are already growing back. We pay a much higher council tax rate than we did in London but we now appear to get less for it.

"Our rubbish collections are now fortnightly, which means rubbish builds up. Our street lamps are turned off at night, which means an increased opportunity for crime. Weeding, flowers and street cleaning are reduced, yet we still pay an over-inflated council tax.

"The current council are not listening to residents who pay their council tax and have done a poor job for the town and its residents.

"5. Flowers - the flower beds were reduced some years ago, sadly. This is one of the things that makes Harrogate so special and must not be allowed to be reduced any further.

"6. General anti-social behaviour on the Stray. A zero-tolerance policy that was taken by Mayor Giuliani in New York worked for them. I spent many years in NYC in my younger days and saw it turn from a dangerous, filthy city on my first visit in 1991 to a clean, safe and wonderful city within a few years.

"So... that means no urinating on the Stray, no littering. Literally crackdown on everything and you will find that the bigger things are sorted as well. After a couple of years you can relax it again once people have learnt how to behave like human beings again.

"To conclude, I agree that other towns are in a worse state than Harrogate - but that doesn’t mean we should ignore the problems we are seeing - it all starts somewhere. I have seen my own home town decline to a place I barely recognise and had to leave. I would not want to see the same happen to Harrogate.

"Act now before it is too late. Keep Harrogate special. Extend the conservation area. Extend the AONB. Police it. Apply zero tolerance. And gate it if necessary!"

Judith Rogerson, Lib Dem Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for Harrogate and Knaresborough, said a dynamic vision is needed for Harrogate town centre that capitalises on the wonderful attractions that make the area unique.

"I feel very lucky to live in Harrogate town centre – it is a wonderful place with much to be positive about. But we cannot become complacent and need to listen to the concerns of local residents and businesses.

"On Friday I spent the morning talking with some of Harrogate’s independent business owners about their concerns for the future. There was no sniping towards local groups or initiatives, but instead genuine worry about the future of our local high streets. Those that I spoke to are concerned that at present there is no clear plan in place to preserve and build upon what makes Harrogate and neighbouring towns so great.

"What is needed is a strategy with input from HBC, NYCC, the BID, businesses and residents. This should involve some radical, long-term thinking. How can we best make use of empty premises? Do we need to invest in new attractions in the town centre? What are the viable alternatives to travelling into town by car?

"We need a dynamic vision for our town centres that capitalises on the wonderful attractions that make our area so unique and adapts to the changes in how we live our lives. That vision needs to be wide ranging. It should identify how we make visiting our town centres a special experience while at the same time finding solutions to challenges such as traffic congestion and the need to reduce our carbon emissions.

"A quick lick of paint and tending to weeds won’t be enough to secure the future for our town centres. It needs a carefully thought out plan and that means working together with everyone who will be affected."

Anne Jones, of Harrogate, said:

"I read with a heavy heart that the ambition remains for pedestrianisation of the remaining parts of Harrogate town centre.

"Harrogate Borough Council’s own consultation on the town centre in 2015 presented potential schemes for various parts of the town, one being the proposal to make full use of the natural amphitheatre of Montpellier. I took part in that consultation and fully supported this particular suggestion. However, I was, and remain, opposed to the pedestrianisation of James Street.

"Personally, I don’t believe that pedestrianisation is a one size fits all solution for a town. I am sure that we all know of town centres that have adopted this blanket approach which can result in soulless and unappealing areas at night.

"Harrogate’s geographical location does not lend itself to an outdoor evening café society economy, unlike warmer climes. Therefore, once the stores and businesses have closed for the day some areas revert to the above.

"Is this to be the future for our beautiful Spa town?"

Have your say on the state of Harrogate town centre. Share your views with our readers. Email news@harrogateadvertiser.co.uk