In numbers: How Harrogate Gateway survey results pave way for major change and what impact it will have

The long-awaited results of a public survey have paved the way for the next stages of the £7.9m Gateway project - but how exactly did Harrogate vote?

Friday, 21st May 2021, 1:49 pm
Updated Friday, 21st May 2021, 1:50 pm
The aim of the Gateway project is to make it easier, safer and quicker for people to travel on foot, by bike or on public transport.

North Yorkshire County Council has this week revealed the consultation results which will form the basis of the next stages of the project including the drawing up of detailed designs and a business plan.

But with controversial changes on the table including pedestrianisation and the removal of traffic lanes and car parking spaces - what proportion of residents are actually backing the plans?

Here are the numbers:

Out of 1,101 respondents to the survey held in February and March, 45% voted in favour of fully pedestrianising James Street, while 32% said no changes should be made and 17% backed a partial pedestrianisation.

The remaining 6% of respondents gave no preference for the street.

These results suggest a majority of residents (62%) support pedestrianisation of some sort - whether full or partial - in what marks a major step forward for the idea which has been mooted for years.

For Station Parade, 49% favoured an option to reduce traffic to one lane, while 27% said it should stay as two lanes and 24% said neither option was workable.

Residents were also asked if they felt positive, negative, neutral or didn't have an opinion on other parts of the project. Here is how they voted:

- Cycle lanes for East Parade (58% positive, 29.3% negative, 12.2% neutral and 0.5% didn't know)

- Improvements to public spaces at One Arch (70.9% positive, 13% negative, 14.3% neutral and 1.8% didn't know)

- Improvements to public spaces at Station Square (59.5% positive, 31.2% negative, 8.9% neutral and 0.4% didn't know)

What is the aim of the Gateway project?

The project is being backed by the Department for Transport’s Transforming Cities Fund which aims to make it easier, safer and quicker for people to travel on foot, by bike or on public transport by improving connections in town and city centres.

In Harrogate, the aim is to give greater priority to these modes of transport with better connections to the train station, bus station and other key parts of the town.

It is also hoped these changes will result in a reduction in carbon emissions from fewer cars on the road, as well as boost to the economy with shoppers spending more time in the town centre.

There are, however, questions over what impact the removal of traffic lanes and car parking spaces will have on business and the roads.

What are the concerns?

The worry from some residents and businesses is that the removal of parking spaces and traffic lanes will mean busier roads and fewer shoppers.

In a joint statement released this week, Harrogate BID, Harrogate District Chamber of Commerce and Independent Harrogate said they were "disappointed that our collective voices have not been listened to" and that they felt what was being proposed would have a "hugely damaging effect" on trade.

They said: “Despite many feeling the outcome is already a done deal, we will continue our dialogue with local councillors and officers, as the final outcome will change the face of Harrogate town centre forever.”

On the flip side, transport officials at North Yorkshire County Council say case study evidence suggests that improvements to public spaces can boost footfall and trading by up to 40%.

They said in a report: "It is often assumed that more parking is the answer to struggling high streets.

"However across Europe, studies have linked the quality of public spaces to people’s perceptions of attractiveness of an area, contributing towards their quality of life and influencing where they shop."

"Evaluations of pedestrian improvements in Coventry and Bristol show a 25% increase in footfall on Saturdays and predict £1.4m benefits respectively."

What will the impact be?

The report published earlier this week also concluded that in a "worst case scenario" reducing Station Parade to one lane would increase average journey times by 53 seconds or 1 minute 14 seconds with James Street fully pedestrianised also.

It added the partial or full pedestrianisation of James Street would result in the loss of 45 out of 915 on-street pay and display spaces currently in operation across the town centre.

Currently, at peak occupancy, it is estimated there are 120 on-street spaces unused.

A separate report published by consultants WSP concluded in another "worst case scenario" estimate that the project could result in increased carbon emissions from diverted vehicles having to make longer journeys.

It added, however, that the "transformational change" from the scheme has the potential to "unlock further behavioural change" with more motorists choosing to travel by foot or bike instead of car.

The magnitude of the possible increase in emissions - around 1,400 tons of CO2 over 60 years - was also said to be "unlikely to be considered significant in the context of regional and national emissions targets".

What do the politicians say?

Harrogate Borough Council has worked closely with the county council on the Gateway project. The authority's cabinet member for carbon reduction and sustainability, councillor Phil Ireland, said earlier this week that the survey results were a positive step forward and set Harrogate on path for a "21st century travel network".

He said: “It’s positive to see that the proposals for sustainable alternatives to the car, and an improved and exciting public realm, have significant support from residents, businesses and visitors alike.

“The benefit of carrying out a consultation early on in the process is that we have everybody’s feedback and ideas to feed into the next phase of detailed design work.

Meanwhile, councillor Don Mackenzie, the county council’s executive member for access and transport, said the next steps of the project would take into account the feedback which had been received.

He said: “We are grateful to everyone across each of the towns who took the time to share their views in the consultation. We have listened.

"The next steps we are considering take into account the feedback we have received. They take account of concerns raised while providing significant benefits to facilitate and encourage people to cycle and walk.

"There will, of course, be further consultation on detailed proposals before final decisions are taken.”

What's next?

Under the next stages of the project, county councillors will be asked to progress the plans at an executive meeting on Tuesday (25 May). Further public consultation will then take place in autumn following the development of detailed designs and a business case.

Subject to a final approval, the aim is for construction to begin by summer 2022 with completion in 2023.

By Jacob Webster, Local Democracy Reporter.