Mayoral candidate says key parts of controversial £11.2m Harrogate Gateway project will now be dropped
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Coun Keane Duncan, North Yorkshire Council’s executive councillor for highways and the Tory Party’s candidate in next year’s mayoral elections for York and North Yorkshire, said investing in Harrogate town centre improvements was too important to play politics with.
As the clock run downs to secure the project which has enraged local businesses and divided local politicians, Coun Duncan said the two most controversial aspects of the scheme would now be dropped to win cross-party support.
"There is a collective will to make Gateway happen for the benefit of Harrogate,” said Coun Duncan.
"It’s what the town’s MP says he wants, it’s what the local Lib Dems say they want.
"But if we are going to do this, we need to fundamentally change the scheme and we need to avoid a legal challenge.
"To be deliverable we need to drop the two most controversial parts in Station Parade and James Street."
North Yorkshire Council originally faced a deadline of 2024 to secure and spend the Government funding to bring more pedestrian and cycling traffic to town and improve the look of the town centre for visitors.
But, after mounting complaints from local businesses and the threat of a legal challenge to the way the project has been handled, Coun Duncan says the way ahead lies mainly in the second part of Gateway – public realm improvements to give the town centre a major facelift.
“We can deliver first class improvements to Station Square and One Arch, upgrade the many uncoordinated traffic signals running from Kings Road to Station Parade and provide new cycling facilities, too.
"If we can deliver Gateway, we will end up with a premier entry point to the town that is much more welcoming and accessible.”
Coun Duncan says, though the council is liaising on the Gateway project with the Department of Transport and the West Yorkshire Combined Authority, what mattered most was winning the support of the Harrogate community.
And he issued a warning that time is running out in North Yorkshire Council’s quest to invest £11.2m in Harrogate by March 2025.
"This is the final window to deliver the investment.
"The project to improve Harrogate is too important to play political games.
"To make it happen, we need to change elements of the scheme.
"Hopefully, at the end of the process we will have a Gateway plan which has clear support from the public and business community in Harrogate.”
Seeking cross-party support, Coun Duncan said he was approaching the situation in the same way he would do in general if elected the first-ever Mayor of York and North Yorkshire in 2024 – with pragmatism but resilience.
"Gateway has been a challenge since I took up the role but it’s no comparison to the challenges I would face if elected Mayor.
"I’ve been upfront and honest about the project since I first got involved and I am doing the same now.
"I am resilient but I am happy to be pragmatic.
"Most politicians would have given up on Gateway but that would have been the wrong thing to do.
"I want what’s best for Harrogate and will do what it takes.”