Plans to pedestrianise James Street branded 'short sighted and dangerous' as Harrogate traders question controversial idea
One of Harrogate’s leading business groups says more than two thirds of businesses along Harrogate’s premier shopping street are against its full pedestrianisation.
Harrogate BID’s findings come after North Yorkshire County Council confirmed this week it was prepared to support Harrogate Borough Council’s trial pedestrianisation of James Street from the Princes Street junction eastwards to the A61 Station Parade in the run-up to Christmas.
Harrogate council believes the partial pedestrianisation would enhance pedestrian safety, attract shoppers and boost business as the town centre seeks to revive from the impact of Covid-19.
Pedestrianisation: What Harrogate BID says
But Harrogate Business Improvement District’s acting chair Sara Ferguson said there was no majorty in favour of this approach in the town’s business community and she was disappointed at the way the council had handled it.
After being contacted by Harrogate Borough Council for its support for pedestrianising the full length of James Street - which would also affect Princes Street - Harrogate Business Improvement District (BID) canvassed levy payers along both roads, ahead of making any formal response.
Sara Ferguson said: “We are disappointed that without first speaking to the very businesses this will affect, Harrogate council appears to have already made its decision.
“While there was no overwhelming single consensus of opinion, one third of businesses Street are totally against any form of pedestrianisation, one third are in favour, whilst another third would support partial pedestrianisation from beyond Princes Street.”
Pedestrianisation: What Harrogate District Chamber of Commerce says
Like Harrogate Bid, Harrogate District Chamber of Trade also argues the subject of James Street is a distraction from the bigger problems facing the town centre and that a wider range of measures are now needed.
Sandra Doherty said: “I am not a fan of either of our existing pedestrianised streets, Cambridge Street and Oxford Street. Altering one street and pedestrianising another will not make Harrogate either safe or great again.
“What we need is a big plan and some big money to get this sorted.”
Pedestrianisation: What Independent Harrogate says
Pressure group Independent Harrogate has campaigned against pedestrianisation ever since it was formed last year.
IH’s Robert Ogden said: “Our main concern is that the local authorities have decided to put this closure in place without consulting either the businesses that operate on James Street or the landlords that own the properties along it.
“Making decisions of this magnitude on Harrogate’s premier shopping street without any proper consultation is short-sighted, and frankly, dangerous.”
Pedestrianisation & Harrogate Town Centre Strategy
Harrogate Borough Council’s support for more pedestrianisation to rejuvenate Harrogate town centre remains a key part of its Harrogate Town Centre Strategy which it first adopted in 2016.
Coun Phil Ireland, pictured, Harrogate Borough Council’s cabinet member for carbon reduction and sustainability, said the partial pedestrianisation would improve safety for residents and visitors and enable them to resume their shopping with confidence.
He said: “It will be particularly important in the run up to the pre-Christmas shopping period as footfall increases and it should improve circumstances for both customers and businesses.”
Pedestrianisation: What Harrogate Lib Dems say
Harrogate and Knaresborough’s opposition Liberal Democrats say they are backing pedestrianisation but argue Harrogate council is not being ambitious enough when it comes to a car-less future.
Local Lib Dem leader Coun Pat Marsh said: “We know we’re heading into really tough economic times and we need to support local business and keep people in work.
“Greater steps must be taken to allow businesses to open out onto the streets.
“Let’s pedestrianise James Street until Christmas - with an eye to doing so longer term - but let’s also be far more ambitious and get a hurry on with implementing pedestrianisation across the district.”
North Yorkshire County Council: A quick timetable to pedestianisation?
Major change may be coming to drivers accustomed to using James Street in Harrogate as early as next month.
And, should it be judged successful, the pedestrianisation of the entire street looks likely to be on the cards.
Coun Don Mackenzie, North Yorkshire County Council’s executive member for access, pictured, said: “The county council recommends that this partial closure be implemented by means of an experimental traffic regulation order, and be effective daily between 10am and 4.30pm. As far as that part of James Street is concerned which would remain open to traffic, the suspension of parking bays to support social distancing will remain in place.
“Our highways team has already arranged a meeting with a Harrogate Borough Council officer to discuss the details of the introduction of the trial partial closure, which could be in place as early as next month.
“Furthermore, if this partial closure proves to work well, and if it is found to be popular with the general public and businesses, full pedestrianisation of James Street can be considered. Such a step would require a process of consultation.”
Harrogate Borough Council: The case for fewer cars in town centre
No matter how it plays out when it comes to James Street and cars, Harrogate Borough Council’s move is certain to reignite existing divisions inside Harrogate’s anxious business community over the parking and pedestrianisation issue.
But both Harrogate Borough Council and North Yorkshire County Council are united in the belief that if the town is to have a green future and hit its own environmental targets for the reduction, car transport must have a smaller part to play in the town centre’s future.
In that aim, it's backed by a range of environmental groups, from Harrogate Green Party and Zero Carbon, who sit on the council's Climate Change Coalition, set up earlier in the year to promote and implements carbon reduction activities throughout the Harrogate district.
As recently as June, Harrogate Borough Council leader Coun Richard Cooper told the Harrogate Advertiser he wanted to pedestrianise three streets in the town centre.
Coun Cooper said then: “I would like to see James Street, Albert Street and Princes Square completely closed to traffic.
“That way there is room for cafes and restaurants to serve takeaways out of their premises and for more people to get nearer to the shops in which they wish to shop while maintaining social distancing.”
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