Cutting car use in Harrogate: How you can get involved in debate over changing town centre

One of North Yorkshire transport leaders is urging residents in Harrogate to make the most of a new round of consultation regarding the £10.9 million Gateway project.

Friday, 22nd October 2021, 11:27 am
The Gateway project for the Station Parade area is designed to bring exciting changes which will benefit residents, businesses and visitors - and cut Harrogate's carbon emissions.

After taking into account previous public feedback into plans to give more priority to walking and cycling in the Station Parade area, Coun Don Mackenzie said he was keen to avoid the situation where each step towards a better, greener town centre was met with opposition after the fact.

The county council’s executive member for access and transport said: “It is very important that residents respond to the latest round of public consultation.

“The Gateway proposals are very significant for Harrogate town centre.

“I do not think it is reasonable for Harrogate residents not to let us have their views, only to complain about changes when they happen.”

Released to the public on Monday, the revised Gateway plans, which will be funded by the government and delivered by a combination of North Yorkshire County Council, Harrogate Borough Council and the West Yorkshire Combined Authority, show the project’s leaders have stuck to their guns on most, if not all, of the ideas for rejigging town centre streets.

Included are a Continental-style roundabout at the top of East Parade, one-lane traffic on parts of Station Parade and the partial pedestrianisation of James Street.

They believe these are exciting changes which will benefit residents, businesses and visitors.

But plans to improve cycling infrastructure along East Parade have been dropped, two-way traffic will stay on parts of Station Parade and the Victoria Monument will not be moving.

The latest stage in the complex process of ushering Gateway over the finishing line follows public consultation in February/March which presented a range of options.

The revised designs have been welcomed by pro-cycling groups who are calling on their supporters to take part in the new consultation.

A spokesperson for Harrogate District Cycle Action said: “We are very positive about the plans, and we support them. Most of the cycle provision is segregated from pedestrians and protected from motor vehicles.

“The plans for a Dutch-style roundabout at the top of East Parade are exciting.

“But we’d like to see areas of shared use reduced to a minimum, and we believe secure cycle storage at the station is vital.”

Harrogate’s business groups are also encouraging people to take part in the current Gateway project consultation - which will run until November 12 - though from a different perspective.

Each phase of the Gateway project so far has seen negative feedback from some business owners who say they are worried the removal of parking spaces and traffic lanes will mean more traffic congestion and fewer shoppers.

Reflecting those concerns, while welcoming the principle of improving the look of Harrogate town centre and reducing carbon emissions, business leaders see electric vehicles as the answer.

Harrogate BID Manager Matthew Chapman believes the motor car must remain an essential part of the future of the town centre.

He said: “We know from a survey we conducted two months ago that the majority of businesses who responded were against two key elements; pedestrianising James Street and reducing Cheltenham Parade and Station Parade to a single carriageway.

“We are urging our Levy Payers to engage in the consultation process, to visit the information stand in Victoria Shopping Centre when it’s open, and also not to miss the opportunity to attend Harrogate District Chamber of Commerce’s meeting next month.

“We want to encourage people into Harrogate by all means of transport, be it via bus, train, on foot, two wheels or by car, and we want access to the town centre to be made as easy as possible.

“If people find it difficult to get into the town centre they will vote with their feet and go elsewhere.”

Harrogate District Chamber of Commerce CEO David Simister added: “What is being proposed will have a huge impact on the town centre for many years to come.

“We welcome investment in the town centre and support the principle of encouraging more people to access the town centre via public transport, bicycle and on foot.

“But we must not neglect those who arrive by car. With the increasing number of electric cars on our roads, we should future-proof the town centre to encourage more visitors to arrive by this clean mode of transport.”

But Coun Don Mackenzie remains convinced most public opinion is on the side of change.

He said: “A total of 80% of people in the Harrogate Congestion Study Public Engagement backed efforts to boost public transport, walking and cycling and to encourage people out of their cars.

“The Harrogate Gateway scheme is the response to that mandate.”

Following the close of the public consultation on Friday, November 12, all feedback will be considered as the designs evolve.

The designs will be finalised by the end of 2021 ahead of a final decision on implementation of the scheme.

It is anticipated that construction of the scheme will begin in spring 2022 for approximately 12 months

How to get involved in Gateway project public consultation

To complete the public survey, go to www.yourvoice.westyorks-ca.gov.uk/northyorkshire

Online events explaining the plans hosted by North Yorkshire County Council will take place today, Thursday and Thursday, October 28 via www.yourvoice.westyorks-ca.gov.uk/northyorkshire

The online events which can be joined via Microsoft Teams at www.yourvoice.westyorks-ca.gov.uk/northyorkshire include

Thursday 21 October 6pm – 7pm

Thursday 28 October 6pm – 7pm

Harrogate BID have worked with the county council on a series of in-person clinics at Victoria Shopping Centre with the Gateway Team who will be available to answer any questions on Wednesday, October 27, Friday, October 29, Monday, November 1 and Friday, November 5.

Harrogate District Chamber of Commerce has invited the Gateway team to its next meeting on Monday, November 8 at Cedar Court Hotel in Harrogate.

For more information, visit www.yourvoice.westyorks-ca.gov.uk/northyorkshire

Anyone who has difficulty accessing information online can contact 01609 780780.

The key points of revised Gateway project plans for Harrogate

James St East

We presented three different options for how James Street could look in the future.

We received strongest support for the full pedestrianisation option.

The option to retain unrestricted vehicle access was the second most popular. The least popular option was part-time pedestrianisation.

The most cited reasons for supporting the full pedestrianisation options were that it would look and feel better and safer and create more spaces for trees and green features.

But progressing the full pedestrianisation option has the potential to significantly delay the delivery of the scheme due to the process required to gain statutory approval; this could result in funding being withdrawn if timescales extend too far.

As such, full pedestrianisation is not considered viable at this time.

We have, therefore, decided to progress with a part-time pedestrianisation proposal which restricts vehicle access to 'loading only' and at limited times.

This option will include many of the changes to the look of James Street (east) that were included in the full pedestrianisation option.

The potential to make James Street (east) fully pedestrianised in the future would remain an option, with minimal additional changes to the look of the street.

Station Parade:

The strongest support was for progressing the ‘One-Lane option’ for Station Parade, though not in the northern section.

This will include a reallocation of highway space to allow new protected cycleways and footways.

This option has now been progressed in an updated form into the latest designs.

Northern section of Station Parade:

The strongest support was for making the street one-way (southbound) for vehicles and removing some on-street parking to create safe space for cycling and better priority for buses.

This option will now be progressed.

Other decisions on Gateway options:

Dropping plans to improve cycling infrastructure along East Parade as this “risks construction delays”.

Progressing with improvements to Station Square with a new water feature.

Keeping the Victoria Monument in its present location on Station Square.

Making the One Arch underpass and area round it safer and nicer for both cyclists and walkers.