Gateway and A61 row: Harrogate council speaks out for the first time

Harrogate's one-way system on the A61 at Parliament Street as it is now. But should it go back to pre-1970 days and two-way traffic?Harrogate's one-way system on the A61 at Parliament Street as it is now. But should it go back to pre-1970 days and two-way traffic?
Harrogate's one-way system on the A61 at Parliament Street as it is now. But should it go back to pre-1970 days and two-way traffic?
The controversial £11million Gateway project may be the work of North Yorkshire County Council as the main highways agency but it has been liaising closely with Harrogate Borough Council throughout the years it has taken to get to this point.

Up to now, the latter has kept quiet on the question of whether reverting to two-way traffic on the A61 should have any part in transforming Harrogate town centre as it seeks a way to become more environmentally-friendly and more attractive to visitors, shoppers, walkers and cyclists.

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But this week the leader of Harrogate Borough Council, Coun Richard Cooper confirmed the council’s belief that the long-held objectives of its own Town Centre Masterplan would best be served by sticking with Gateway.

Coun Cooper said: “The ethos of Harrogate Borough Council is to promote sustainable transport, offer people alternatives to the car and persuade them to use those alternatives.

“That is the thrust of the Station Gateway project and our Harrogate Town Centre Masterplan.”

The council leader echoed the county council in seeing the A61 idea as an unwanted delay on progress to Gateway.

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He said: “Even irrespective of the expense of reverting traffic on the A61 already mentioned by North Yorkshire County Council, talk of changes to the traffic flow on Parliament Street and West Park are a distraction. We should focus all our energies on how we make our town centres great places to live, to meet, to work and to shop.”

Coun Cooper also pointed out that, despite the strength of feeling about the A61, all the recent public consultations showed wide support for non-car measures.

He said: “Survey after survey shows the public wants to see improved, open public spaces with adequate parking for the motorist in our car parks and vastly improved facilities for pedestrians, cyclists and people using public transport.

“That is what the Station Gateway project aims to achieve.”

Two-way traffic on the A61? What the public is saying

Despite a price tag of £30million claimed by North Yorkshire County Council for bringing back southbound traffic on the A61 through Parliament Street and West Park for the first time in 50 years, parts of the Harrogate community continue to argue that there should be, at the very least, a feasibility study into the idea.

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The voices range from cycling campaigner, Harrogate Wheel Easy’s Malcolm Margolis BEM and Harrogate lawyer Russell Davidson to Harrogate Lib Dem opposition leader Coun Pat Marsh and Harrogate Civic Society.

Letters on the subject from readers of the Harrogate Advertiser are also continuing to arrive calling for the powers-that-be to look into the idea.

The letters page in this week's edition of the newspaper in the shops includes pleas from the following:

Harrogate resident Mark Warr writes: “The only way to break this deadlock is to undertake a fully costed feasibility study.

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“Unless the full implications for this project are fully reviewed with democratic input I fear that this project will leave a lasting negative legacy on Harrogate town centre.”

Judith Simpson writes: “One of the aims of the Gateway Project is to reduce traffic congestion.

“By opening up the A61 to two way traffic travelling south, the need to divert traffic round the town, causing congestion, pollution and unnecessary fuel consumption, is obviated.

“With such an important decision on the future of our town, and with so many voices in favour of returning the A61 to two way, now is the time to give this matter serious consideration.”

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Mr S Allcock writes: “A large majority of rational thinking Harrogate residents would support the reintroduction of two way traffic on Parliament Street/West Park, and have indicated their belief that reducing Station Parade to a single lane would be foolhardy.”

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