Petition against Harrogate Gateway project is rejected as council pushes ahead with £10.9m scheme

A petition calling for the Harrogate Gateway project to be halted has been rejected by councillors ahead of a final decision on the £10.9m scheme later this month.

Thursday, 6th January 2022, 3:12 pm
Updated Thursday, 6th January 2022, 3:14 pm
North Yorkshire County Council is determined to push ahead with the Gateway project after today rejecting a petition calling for it to be halted.

Harrogate Residents Association delivered the 714-signature petition to a North Yorkshire County Council meeting today when the group's co-founder Anna McIntee accused the authority of "ploughing ahead" with the project without listening to concerns.

Ms McIntee said the scheme - which aims to boost cycling and walking and create a more attractive entrance to the Station Parade area - would have a "radical" impact on traffic and businesses.

But councillors hit back at the claims saying the group has previously opposed "any" projects which promote sustainable travel and that the Gateway will deliver on its aims if approved at an executive meeting on 25 January.

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Councillor Don Mackenzie, executive member for access at North Yorkshire County Council, said: "This is the second petition that has been brought by the Harrogate Residents Association. Similarly last time, there was a petition against our Low Traffic Neighbourhood scheme on Beech Grove.

"The petitioners also opposed one of our active travel schemes on Oatlands Drive.

"There is a history here of opposing any schemes we bring forward which try to encourage people out of their motor cars and to use sustainable means of transport.

"The Gateway represents an investment of some £11m in a part of Harrogate town centre which quite frankly does need an uplift.

"We are not simply talking about highways changes here, but fundamental changes to improve an area which most of our visitors who arrive by bus or train see from the moment they arrive."

Councillor Richard Cooper, leader of Harrogate Borough Council, also said claims in the petition that the project will "adversely affect every resident in Harrogate" were "demonstrably false".

He said: "This project is about ensuring those who wish to use a mode of transport other than the private car have an opportunity to do so.

"It isn't about banning cars or replacing roads 'wholesale' with cycle lanes - this is a giant misinterpretation."

Included in the project are plans for a part-time pedestrianisation of James Street and reducing Station Parade to one-lane traffic to make way for a cycle lane.

There are also proposals for upgraded junctions, more cycle lanes and improvements to Station Square as well as the One Arch underpass with the aim of providing better links to the train and bus station.

The project has won the support of campaign group Harrogate and District Cycle Action which said in a statement to today's meeting that the Gateway will be a "big step forward" towards a greener future.

Yet the rejected petition from Harrogate Residents Association still marks a sign of growing opposition against the project which was recently dealt a blow after a latest council-run survey.

Consultation results released in December revealed 55% of 1,320 respondents felt 'negative' about the project, while 39% felt 'positive'. The remaining 6% were either 'neutral' or said they didn’t know.

Speaking at today's meeting, Ms McIntee questioned how the councils could now push ahead with the project.

She said: "How do people know this is value for money, especially when the track record of wasted money in Harrogate is terrible.

"There are many people calling for the project to be trailed before £10.9m is committed. We think this is a sensible idea.

"Far too many disconnected pocket plans are occurring, all focused on cycling."

The Gateway is being funded by the government's Transforming Cities Fund, with a deadline for the awarded £10.9m to be spent by early 2023.

If the project is approved later this month, construction could start in spring 2022.

By Jacob Webster, Local Democracy Reporter