Harrogate Gateway: Public inquiry threat revealed for James Street pedestrianisation plans

The threat of a public inquiry has been revealed as a reason why plans for a full-time pedestrianisation of one of Harrogate's busiest shopping streets have been dropped from the £10.9m Gateway project.

Friday, 29th October 2021, 9:51 am
This is how James Street could look under the Gateway plans.

North Yorkshire County Council received strong support when it consulted on the idea of removing traffic from James Street but recently announced it instead wants to restrict vehicles at limited times only - despite this being the least supported option.

Karl Battersby, corporate director of business and environmental services at the council, has now said this route is being taken as the authority believes it could face objections which would trigger a public inquiry if a full-time pedestrianisation is progressed.

He explained: "A traffic regulation order is required to pedestrianise a street.

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"In certain circumstances, including where vehicles are excluded at all times, if an order is made and objections are raised that cannot be resolved, a public inquiry could result.

"If that were to happen, it could delay the scheme."

Mr Battersby also said a full-time pedestrianisation "remains possible" in the future after the completion of the Gateway project which requires government cash to be spent by March 2023.

He added the council's preferred option of part-time restrictions would still retain many of the changes to the look of James Street that would be included under a full-time pedestrianisation.

He said: “The selected option provides the opportunity to pedestrianise the street at most times of the day, except for a period to allow deliveries, with access controlled through rising bollards.

"This creates the ability to pedestrianise the street at any time of day in future subject to the outcome of a legal order.

"We believe this strikes an appropriate balance between the wishes of respondents and risks to delivery of the scheme.”

The detailed plans were first revealed in February when residents and businesses were also consulted with.

It is only now - eight months on - that the council has spoken of the potential threat of a public inquiry.

This could be in part due to negative feedback from some business owners and residents, however, the council's own consultation results show a full-time pedestrianisation would be well supported.

Of the 1,101 respondents to the consultation, 45% were in favour of this option, while 32% said no changes should be made to the layout of James Street.

Meanwhile, just 17% supported a part-time pedestrianisation - the option that the council is now pushing ahead with.

Although James Street has proved to be one of the most contentious parts of the Gateway project, it is in fact only a small part of the overall plans.

There are also proposals to reduce Station Parade to a single lane of traffic to create room for a cycle lane, as well improvements to Station Square and the One Arch underpass.

A latest consultation on the entire project is currently underway with residents and businesses having until 12 November to have their say before more detailed proposals are drawn up and a final decision is made.

If approved, it is anticipated that construction will start in spring 2022 for approximately 12 months.

For more information and to have your say go to www.yourvoice.westyorks-ca.gov.uk/harrogate

By Jacob Webster, Local Democracy Reporter