County Council says there's no turning back on Harrogate Gateway project

In the run-up to the latest public consultation, the leaders of Harrogate's controversial Gateway plans say they remain totally committed to seeing the project through despite the threat of a possible legal challenge.

By Graham Chalmers
Friday, 15th July 2022, 3:50 pm
Station Parade visit - Coun Keane Duncan, North Yorkshire County Council's Executive Member for Highways and Transport, with Coun Phil Ireland, Harrogate Borough Council’s cabinet member for carbon reduction and sustainability.
Station Parade visit - Coun Keane Duncan, North Yorkshire County Council's Executive Member for Highways and Transport, with Coun Phil Ireland, Harrogate Borough Council’s cabinet member for carbon reduction and sustainability.

Speaking today at Station Parade on the site of planned changes to bring more cycling and pedestrianisation, Coun Keane Duncan said North Yorkshire County Council was "pro business" and that Gateway was an "exciting scheme" to improve Harrogate town centre.

But, he emphasised, though the council was keen to engage on Gateway in next week's third public consultation, it was not a referendum.

A vision of Gateway - Improvements to the public realm in Harrogate town centre would include a brighter, lighter and safer One Arch.

"We are a pro business council. This is a positive scheme to help businesses," said North Yorkshire County Council's Executive Member for Highways and Transport

"We are open to amending parts of the scheme after feedback but we have to take this scheme forward or we will lose the funding.

"This consultation is about sharing information and we do want to see people's comments. But this is not a referendum."

The £10.9 million project, £11.2m when match-funded, is a joint initiative by North Yorkshire County Council, Harrogate Borough Council and the West Yorkshire Combined Authority.

The aim is to deliver improvements to walking, cycling and public transport links to increase access to jobs, education, healthcare and leisure facilities, while improving health and wellbeing by enabling easier walking and cycling and making the town more welcoming to residents, visitors and businesses.

In consultations last year, members of the public were invited to give views on whether to progress with the proposals, then on more detailed designs.

Following feedback from those consultations, the designs have been developed further.

North Yorkshire County Council says he latest consultation, the third, which starts next Wednesday and runs to August 24, will not revisit previous questions but will instead invite people to comment on the further detail of design elements of the scheme.

Coun Keane Duncan, said: “The county council is keen to hear views on ambitious plans to help make Harrogate town centre more accessible to residents and visitors.

“As part of the latest consultation we will be sharing updated designs and seeking views on key elements of the Gateway project, particularly around traffic and transport.

"Your responses will be vital to ensuring we deliver the very best scheme for residents and businesses.”

What the Gateway project involves: the proposals

Proposals include improved railway and bus station frontages with better access and improved facilities for walking and cycling in the town centre.

There would also be improvements to the public realm including a new water feature near the Victoria monument on Station Square, new street furniture, a brighter, lighter and safer One Arch.

Although nine trees would have to be removed, the Gateway project would see 24 new trees planted.

The roundabout at the Odeon cinema on East Parade would be changed to accommodate a cycle lane, but it would not be a Dutch style roundabout.

Why Gateway project is "good for business" and why alternative ideas do not fit the bill

Tania Weston, North Yorkshire County Council's Transforming Cities Fund programme manager, said the evidence of similar schemes in other towns and cities in the UK was it boosted business.

In addition, traffic studies showed the impact on car journeys of reducing part of Station Parade to a single lane was not as concerning as some people feared.

In fact, the affect of the Gateway plans would be to add 73 seconds to a typical car journey in peak hours across Harrogate town centre.

She said a new survey showed 90% of people were happy to shop on James Street even if it was pedestrianised.

As for alternative ideas such as reinstating two-way traffic to the A61 on Parliament Street or introducing new park and rides in Harrogate, she said the criteria for projects financed by the Transforming Cities Fund made encouraging cycling and walking a priority over boosting roads.

"Even if we could apply for different funding for new roads, that, too, would also need to meet the Government's cycling and walking criteria," said Tania Weston.

"Reinstating two-way traffic on the A61 is likely to cost £50 to 60 million because of inflation.

"But the county council is now conducting a separate feasibility study into creating park and rides in Harrogate."

How the latest Gateway public consultation will work

From Wednesday, July 20, people can take part online at www.yourvoice.westyorks-ca.gov.uk/harrogate *

Paper copies of the consultation information and survey will be available from Harrogate and Starbeck libraries, the Victoria Shopping Centre, Harrogate Borough Council offices, or on request from [email protected] or 01609 780780.

The public will be able to hear more about the proposals and ask questions at an online event or drop-in session before completing the consultation survey.

Drop-in sessions will be held at the Victoria Shopping Centre on Thursday, August 4; Friday, August 5; and Saturday, August 6, from 9am to 5pm each day.

An online event will be held on Wednesday, August 10, at 6pm.

Visit www.yourvoice.westyorks-ca.gov.uk/harrogate for details of how to join.

Gateway: The possible legal threat

This week's relevation after a Freedom of Information request by the Harrogate Advertiser that lawyers acting on behalf of Harrogate commercial property firm Hornbeam Park Developments Ltd submitted a proposed claim for judicial review against North Yorkshire County Council's decision to agree to submit a final business case for the Government funding required for the £10.9 million scheme to introduce new pedestrianisation and cycle lanes, has not led to any weakening of resolve in the Gateway team.

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"We have to seize this opportunity or lose this opportunity," said Coun Keane Duncan.

"This scheme is the right thing to do we need to soldier on I do believe most people in Harrogate think it is the right thing to do.

"Our job is to engage with all of Harrogate not just one group."

Gateway: The importance of carbon emissions

Coun Phil Ireland, Harrogate Borough Council’s cabinet member for carbon reduction and sustainability, said it was important for Gateway to go ahead to enable progress towards a net zero-carbon economy in the Harrogate district by 2038,

“This is the most significant investment in Harrogate town centre for 30 years. It's investment we will lose if we don't press on.

"The proposals for Harrogate will create an exemplary and attractive gateway to the town while also providing high-quality accessible and sustainable transport links with an emphasis on active travel options.

“Now more than ever, we need to focus our attention on better access for walking and cycling which will not only improve health and wellbeing but also support our overall vision to have a net zero-carbon economy by 2038.”

Gateway: what happens next?

The construction deadline for Gateway may have been extended until end of March 2024, partly in response to the possible legal threat and the launch of the third consultation.

But the county councils says it is confident it can overcome any obstacles, including, potentially, rising costs because of soaring inflation.

It says it will be consulting on traffic and road changes required in the town centre after this consultation and all feedback will be assessed before the county council's executive decides whether to submit a final case for the funding from the Government's Transforming Cities Fund.

It will also be sharing the final designs, too.

If approved by the executive, the county council says construction is likely to start next year in late spring early summer.

It is already working with contractors to assess how to minimise disruption once work begins.

And it pledges there will be no roadworks during the Great Yorkshire Show or in the run-up to Christmas.

To view the outcome of the previous consultations, visit:

www.yourvoice.westyorks-ca.gov.uk/harrogateround1

or

www.yourvoice.westyorks-ca.gov.uk/harrogateround2