Harrogate parking charges won't be introduced '˜behind closed doors'

North Yorkshire County Council has rubbished claims that proposals to introduce on-street parking charges for Sundays and evenings are being pushed through '˜behind closed doors'.

Tuesday, 31st May 2016, 11:48 am
Updated Tuesday, 31st May 2016, 1:53 pm
NADV 1306044AM1 Parking ticket machine. (1306044AM1)

At a County Area Committee meeting, for the Harrogate district, Coun David Simister accused the county council of already reaching a decision over the plans. 

Coun Simister (Bilton & Nidd Gorge) complained that the committee were being presented with a ‘fait accompli’ by a county council going against the collective view of Harrogate. 

However, Coun Don Mackenzie, cabinet member for Highways, reiterated that a decision would only be made after the publication of a parking survey. 

During November’s County Area Committee meeting, members requested that the county council carry out a joint parking review alongside Harrogate Borough Council (HBC). 

Coun Mackenzie insisted that he himself had not yet seen the results of the survey and said the findings would be published before any decision was made. 

Speaking at the meeting on Thursday, May 26, Coun Mackenzie said: “To correct Coun Simister, I have not said we will be taking a decision to introduce charges.

“Surveys were carried out by the Highways team during April, during the evenings and various days of the week but in particular Sundays.

“That report is set to come back to the executive in due course but I have not seen the results of those surveys yet.

“Highways officers at North Yorkshire have done exactly what this committee asked us to do several months ago which is to have parking review meetings with HBC.

“We have also done further survey work to build up evidence which this committee asked for. But this is work that I have not seen yet.”

During the meeting, Coun Simister also slammed the county council for refusing to carry out any further consultations on the proposals. 

After announcing the return of the plans earlier this month, Coun Mackenzie told the Advertiser that there would be no further public consultation after holding an initial one when the plans were first announced.

However, Coun Mackenzie assured members that they will have the opportunity to comment on the report once it is published and before any decision is taken.

He said: “I can assure Coun Simister that we will not be proceeding with this without keeping everyone informed.

“This report will be seen in due course. It will be published well ahead of the decision meeting. 

“So, the suggestion that this is being done behind closed doors and a decision is about to be taken without any further consultation is wrong.”

Despite not yet seeing the results of the report, Coun Mackenzie again hinted that it would recommend introducing Sunday charges, as opposed to evening charges.

From the results of the surveys, he said he understood there was ‘strong evidence’ that streets were fully parked up on Sundays but less so on evenings. 

The announcement that the parking charges proposal is set to return has sparked outrage among hundreds of Harrogate’s residents and businesses. 

A petition was originally launched for the council to drop the charges when they were first proposed with another started last week already gathering more than 1,000 signatures.

Coun Mackenzie said the petition will be taken into account but warned that many of the signatories may be from residents who had fully considered the issue. 

He said: “I know there is another petition out there which has gathered more than 1,000 signatures and we will take that into account.

“But I do have a problem with petitions as they attract a huge number of signatories who actually have not thoughts about the subject.

“This includes 2,000 signatures from people who want the bus service restoring when only 3 people use that bus service.

“These sorts of things have to be taken into account but we will keep members of the public informed as we take this matter further.”

To sign the petition, visit hgsaysyes.com