Independent Harrogate hails planning changes idea as "breath of fresh air" to revive high street

The independent voice of almost 200 local Harrogate town centre businesses has hailed possible Government plans to relax commercial planning rules as a "breath of fresh air."

Monday, 8th June 2020, 9:38 am
Independent Harrogate supporters Ben Ogden, Robert Ogden, Nicholas Richardson and Robert Kennedy on James Street in Harrogate town centre. (Picture Gered Binks)

Reports in the national press at the weekend suggested the Government may be considering, that to help the high street recover, planning rules should be dramatically changed and businesses be able to change their use with complete flexibility.

Independent Harrogate said, if the changes did go ahead, it would "really help boost Harrogate's regeneration as we pass through this Covid crisis."

A spokesperson for the business pressure group launched nearly a year ago said a possible new fast-track system for developers of high quality, well-designed buildings, as reported in the Sunday Times, was long overdue.

Independent Harrogate said: "Town centre businesses have seen the present planning regime as one of the major reasons preventing a new approach to the regeneration of Harrogate town centre.

"Local planning and financing is long, complicated and bureaucratic.

"The news is a breath of fresh air, as our councils are ploughing ahead with a multi-million pound “masterplan” for the redevelopment of the town centre - devised before the national brands started leaving town, the commercial disaster of the UCI event, the recent growth of online shopping and now Covid-19 - which is based on Harrogate six years ago which then had a “a thriving retail centre” which no longer exists."

Independent Harrogate, which over the last 12 months has locked horns regularly with local authorities in its pleas for increased free parking, recently launched its own mission statement to revive the town centre.

A spokesperson for Independent Harrogate said: "Independent Harrogate’s recent manifesto imagined a well conceived, mixed use town centre accessed by zero carbon transport (including cars) which through a high quality offering of shopping, culture and residential use would again be a magnet for specialist businesses, visitors and residents alike.

"Wouldn’t it be great to think that there is in Harrogate the necessary business acumen, imagination, flair and common-sense to seize this opportunity, to put aside political issues, personal ambition and inertia and for all of us to pull together in the same direction for the common good of our town

"Is it too much to hope that our leaders will at last understand that the world has changed irrevocably and the current plans need to be abandoned and re-thought.

"We are hoping this could be at least one silver lining of the pandemic."

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