Park and ride, free parking and pedestrianisation: Harrogate council leader Richard Cooper answers your questions

Richard Cooper answers your views from our town centre survey.
Richard Cooper answers your views from our town centre survey.

Negotiations are underway for a park and ride, more live events should be held in the town centre, and The Stray will remain sacrosanct.

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These are just some of the revelations from the leader of Harrogate Borough Council, Coun Richard Cooper, as he waded through the replies to our Harrogate Advertiser Town Centre Survey.

More than 850 people sent in their thoughts on the town and its future, and Coun Cooper was more than a little impressed by what he was faced with.

Here, in his own words, is his reaction to some of the main points.

The Harrogate Advertiser survey

“I think the Harrogate Advertiser’s survey was a very useful exercise and showed what a good readership it’s got.

“I was surprised by the quality of the suggestions. People had put a lot of thought into coming up with very good ideas.

“It’s clear people care about the town centre and want it to do well.

“The council decided to repaint all the black and gold bollards, bins and benches over the summer.

“How Harrogate looks is important.”

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Park and Ride for Harrogate

“Harrogate Borough Council is in discussion with Transdev looking at a park and ride for Harrogate.

“Harrogate Bus Company is leading the process supported by the council.

“If it goes ahead, it would complement existing bus routes and would run every ten minutes into town to incentivise people to get out of their cars.

“You cant have an effective park and ride unless you give buses some sort of priority over motorists.

“That will mean bus lanes.

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“North Yorkshire County Council has indicated its support for a park and ride scheme in general but these things take time, possibly a matter of two or three years at the earliest.

“We’re still discussing possible locations for a park and ride.

“It’s likely to be a lengthy process involving changing the road system, questions of land ownership and a lot of statutory consultation.”

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“In terms of rates, we need a rebalance between high street retailers and the big corporates like Amazon which pay very low rates compared to small shops.

“Anything at all which increases costs for retailers is a problem in terms of profits and reinvestin in their business.

“Harrogate council introduced rate relief in April. There’s a pot of up to £10,000 available for shops and premises which improve their exteriors.”

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More live events in the town centre?

“I support more events in and around the town centre. I’m keen to bring more people into the town centre.

“Can you imagine the town centre without the conference trade? It brings £57 million worth of trade into Harrogate.

“The council invests £800,000 in the convention centre and all the money that comes back goes into hotels and shops in the town centre."

Public events and The Stray

“We need to get better at making the most of national celebrations with big screens etc.

“I wish we had known how well England were going to do the World Cup.”

“But the one thing we can’t do is go against the will of the people who said they didn’t want to change the Stray Act in the referendum in 2016-17.

“The Stray is safe in our hands, as it would be safe in any council’s hands.

“It’s one of the reasons I live in Harrogate. When you drive into Harrogate for the first time and you see all this grass right in the middle of town, its amazing.

“The Stray is absolutely sacrosanct.”

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Pedestrianisation and parking

“I don’t think free parking would work. Parking charges are there to ensure there’s a turnover of spaces so people can come not the town and spend their money locally.

“If it was free, people would use the spaces for coming to work and park all day. The contradictions in the survey on some of the replies shows how difficult is is to do things sometimes.

"The public in Harrogate are clearly divided on pedestrianisation. Some people think is it a great idea, making it easier for people to walk around the town centre and easier to hold events in the street and link different parts of the town.

“But others hate it. We do need to have the debate, though.

“My personal view is pedestrianisation is largely a good thing when it’s done in the right way.

“But you have to ensure there’s still parking spaces for people with mobility problems and it’s essential to have good public transport.”

Property: more town centre living

“We need to get more people living in the town centre. The old days of living above the shop should come back.

“If people live in the town centre it will become more vital and more alive.

“I’m hopeful of getting the aspiration in the planning system in future.”

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Litter and anti-social behaviour

“All the statistics show Harrogate is a clean and tidy town. I’ve got no problem with people’s standards for the town being very high.

“I do think the council needs to do more.

“I’ve asked council officers to bring forward a deep clean of Harrogate town centre in terms of chewing gum shortly. We trialled it in Pateley Bridge with great success.

“As for beggars, they don’t deserve to be demonised. The council has been working closely with Harorgate Homeless Project to help bone fide rough sleepers.

“We’ve contributed £150,000 over five years to help people sleeping rough, to get them off the streets and into accommodation. But the key is to help ensure they stay off the streets.

“I’ve seen people in Harrogate begging recently coming here from out of town or people who do have accommodation begging.

“It’s difficult to stop it but begging is a police matter.”