Harrogate's future: Residents set to be asked for views on creating new town council

Residents of Harrogate will be asked to give their views on whether to create town councils for the two areas, if councillors agree to launch a consultation for the future of North Yorkshire towns' roles after a major local government shake-up.

By Graham Chalmers
Monday, 11th July 2022, 6:04 pm

Parts of Scarborough and Harrogate are the only places in North Yorkshire not to have a parish or town council.

On April 1 next year, North Yorkshire County Council, Scarborough Borough Council and Harrogate Borough Council, along with the county’s five other district councils, will be replaced by a new North Yorkshire Council that will deliver all local services.

A central pledge in the case for that change was “double devolution”. This will enable town and parish councils to take on greater responsibilities, if they want to and can provide a successful business case.

On Tuesday, July 19, North Yorkshire County Council’s executive will be recommended to approve a legal process known as a community governance review of the parts of Harrogate and Scarborough that have no parish or town council.

If agreed, this would lead to a consultation during the summer in which people would be asked their views on creating councils for the two towns.

In Scarborough, Eastfield Town Council boundaries would also be reviewed. This is because new housing developments at Middle Deepdale, which seamlessly neighbour and have strong links to the Eastfield community, are within the Scarborough unparished area. Residents of both areas would be consulted.

The county council’s leader, Coun Carl Les, said: “Parish and town councils will play a key role in representing the views and promoting the needs of communities, so it is vital we look at offering people in Harrogate and Scarborough the opportunity to give their views on whether they want town or parish councils and, if so, what these might look like.

“At this stage, no proposals would be put forward. Residents would be invited to give their views on the formation of town councils and the reasons behind them. Depending on the response, there would be a further consultation in which people would be asked to comment on detailed proposals.”

The review would aim to bring about improved community engagement, more cohesive communities, better local democracy and more effective and convenient delivery of local services.

Executive member for corporate services, Coun David Chance, said: “Listening to and empowering local voices is at the heart of the creation of the new North Yorkshire Council.

"Our ‘double devolution’ plan will see greater powers and funding passed to parish and town councils, for those that would welcome it.

"We will also give people, voluntary organisations and businesses a louder voice via community networks based around market town areas and will improve transparency through area constituency committees to oversee their local areas and champion their cause.”

Executive member for stronger communities, Cllr Greg White, added: “North Yorkshire’s communities are its strength, as they show time and again, and never more so than in recent years.

"That’s why the first people we should listen to, if we are to consider whether Harrogate and Scarborough should have town councils, are the people who live and work in those towns.”

Currently, Harrogate and Scarborough each have borough status, which entitles them to have a mayor. In the absence of parish councils, that status could be at risk.

To preserve the historic property, privileges, rights and traditions, the structural changes order approved by the Government to enable creation of the single North Yorkshire Council establishes charter trustees for the unparished parts of the towns from April 1, 2023.

Charter trustees are the councillors representing the electoral divisions covering the unparished area.

They have no powers to deliver services, but will be responsible for ensuring any ceremonial elements continue, including a mayor.

If town or parish councils were established, the charter trustees would be disbanded.