I have read the coverage in the local paper about a perceived decline in Harrogate. I’ve lived in the town centre since the late 1990s, throughout that time we have had our problems.
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Concrete cancer at the Royal Hall, Sun Pavilion decline, silly rules threatening paddling pools, bus services axed, ongoing problems with rail rolling stock, a lack of affordable housing and traffic congestion to name a few.
What do all these problems have in common? Positive and constructive people came forward and worked with others to try and solve the problems.
Sometimes they were successful, sometimes partially so, occasionally not.
Few can forget the massive community effort to save the Royal Hall. The Sun Pavilion is now a thriving venue, kids can still use our paddling pools, the number 36 bus is a brilliant service, the awful pacer trains are being replaced, more affordable homes are being built than in years and we now have a community interest housing company in Knaresborough.
Nearly all the solutions to problems come when the public, local groups, the council, the local paper and other organisations align their objectives, stop sniping at one another and work together.
The latest problems with street begging and the associated litter problems and anti-social behaviour are another in that list of difficulties. They have had a temporary effect on the appearance of parts of the town centre but again we have seen some take a step forward and act.
The new ‘Harrogate Street Aid’ initiative supported by Harrogate Homeless Project, the police, North Yorkshire Horizons and Harrogate Borough Council is yet another example of energetic and constructive people finding solutions. Their advice not to give to street beggars is hard but they have provided the evidence to show this is not the best way to help them.
The concept of tapping your card on a terminal in a shop window to donate a few pounds towards projects to help the nearby street beggar is fresh and innovative.
This money can then be used by professionals to fund projects to help with mental and physical health issues, drug and alcohol dependency, family breakdown and other issues. It is an imaginative and constructive way of allowing us to give money and to know it is going to help rather than taking pot luck on what the cash will be spent on.
On Sunday evenings a small team has been going out pulling up weeds in Harrogate town centre streets and spraying weedkiller – another example of a proactive approach with which anyone with a pair of gardening gloves can join in.
I joined a group of volunteers not so long ago laying stone to maintain safe and dry footpaths in Hookstone Woods.
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It was a small group of about 10 people making a big difference for the hundreds of people using those footpaths.
In Knaresborough, we have great community groups doing things like running FEVA and the bed race.
Renaissance Knaresborough promotes the town windows attractions and is studying the possibility of a cliff lift.
So when I hear of our area going downhill I don’t agree. I agree that we have problems, and sometimes serious ones, that occur from time to time. But we also have local people determined to find solutions and motivated to solve problems.
What our area needs is even more people like that so that the few who volunteer to benefit the many grow in number.
Andrew Jones is MP for Harrogate & Knaresborough ward