What's next for Harrogate's £10.9m Gateway project?

The Harrogate Gateway project may have been approved, but the next stages of the £10.9m scheme will be far from straightforward.

By Jacob Webster
Wednesday, 9th February 2022, 12:29 pm
Updated Wednesday, 9th February 2022, 12:30 pm
This is how Station Parade could look with one-lane traffic.
This is how Station Parade could look with one-lane traffic.

It took almost two years of design works and heated debate to get to this stage - now questions are turning to when the vision of Harrogate town centre less dominated by cars could become a reality.

North Yorkshire County Council' s executive approved the project last month in the face of a deep divide amongst residents and businesses over what the major changes to several streets will mean for the local economy and traffic congestion.

The council originally said it anticipated construction would start this spring or summer, but it is now being much more ambiguous saying works "could" begin "later this year".

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It also said construction could stretch into 2024 after initially aiming for completion by the end of 2023.

This uncertainty over when the project could start and finish has drawn further concern from some business leaders who had previously called for the Gateway to be halted.

David Simister, chief executive of Harrogate Chamber of Commerce, said now the project is going ahead, it is key that disruption to businesses is kept to "an absolute minimum" when the construction phase eventually gets underway.

He said: “We were initially told that if approved, work would commence in late spring/early summer, and what I wouldn’t want to see is it commencing in the run up to Christmas.

"When it does start, the message that needs to be communicated loud and clear is that the town remains open for business.

“The project team also needs to consult with the business community long before work starts, and it also needs to be prepared to listen to any concerns that might arise."

Works on the detailed designs of the project - which includes reducing Station Parade to one-lane traffic and a part-time pedestrianisation of James Street - are now continuing ahead of a final business case being submitted around August.

The business case will be submitted to the West Yorkshire Combined Authority which is overseeing the project funding from the government's Transforming Cities Fund.

Subject to its approval, a contractor will then be appointed to carry out the works, as well as similar projects in Selby and Skipton.

Traffic Regulation Orders - which are legal documents needed to introduce road changes - will be necessary for all three schemes and could spark public inquiries if objections are received.

These orders are lengthy processes and can often take several months to complete due to the need for public consultations.

The idea of a judicial review - which would be a court hearing into whether the council's decision to approve the Gateway was lawful or not - has also been previously discussed by some Harrogate businesses.

This would have the potential to either derail the project or delay it long enough to jeopardise funding.

Despite the objections and threats of legal action, the Gateway has been well supported by many residents and campaign groups who have hailed it as a positive step to tackle climate change and cut car congestion.

The project also includes improvements for pedestrians and cyclists, with upgrades planned for Station Square and the One Arch underpass, as well the Odeon cinema roundabout and several other streets in the area.

North Yorkshire County Council has continually insisted that businesses, cyclists, pedestrians and public transport users alike will see the benefits once the project is completed.

It also said while the construction phase will be a challenge, the authority will try to minimise the impact on traffic and trade.

A county council spokesperson said: "Although the Department for Transport set an initial completion date of March 2023, the department has advised that completion could extend into 2024.

"The programme is tight, so the flexibility is welcome.

"The county council takes the delivery risk, but will have robust programme management in place and there is a sum for contingency within each scheme’s budget."

By Jacob Webster, Local Democracy Reporter