The leaders of the £10.9m scheme to create a more cycle and pedestrian-friendly town centre say the views of all respondents will be taken into account in a final report which will be put to a vote of North Yorkshire County Coucil’s executive early in the New Year.
A total of 1,320 online surveys were completed as part of the second Gateway public consultation process which ran from October 18 to November 12, 2021.
The results - for the first time in the nearly two-year long process - showed more respondents felt ‘negative’ or ‘very negative’ (55.3%) than felt ‘positive’ or ‘very positive’ (38.9%) about the environmentally-friendly project to create a nicer town cenre funded from the Government’s Transforming Cities Fund.
But, when asked whether Gateway’s central aim of making it easier and safer to walk or cycle in the Station Parade area would be achieved, a total of 50% agreed as opposed to 23% who disagreed.
The public face of the project, Coun Don Mackenzie, who is North Yorkshire County Council’s executive member for transport, said all comments made during the recent consultation would be taken into account but the Gateway process itself and its vision of a nicer, more ‘green’ town centre would go ahead.
Coun Mackenzie said: “We worked hard to win TCF funding for Harrogate, Selby and Skipton, especially since the project fitted in so well with the recommendations of the Harrogate Congestion Study and public views on it which showed the public wanted more walking and cycling infrastructure, greater support and use of public transport, and encouragement to leave cars at home when making short journeys.
“We are leaning towards going forward with the Harrogate scheme, pending the decision of the county council executive, probably next month, but certainly early in the New Year.
“I am not expecting major changes to the published design as we move forward, but all comments made during the recent consultation will be taken into account.”
The results of the consultation showed the majority of respondents sharing fears previously expressed by elements of the Harrogate business community over the impact of Gateway on traffic congestion and customer numbers.
But Coun Phil Ireland, Harrogate Borough Council’s cabinet member for carbon reduction, said Gateway remained the best way forward.
“This scheme offers a fantastic opportunity to secure the largest investment in to Harrogate town centre for 30 years, revitalising the town centre in a sustainable way.”
Results: 2nd round of Gateway public consultation
Public fears on Gateway project
When respondents to the latest round of public consultation who felt ‘negative’ or ‘very negative’ about the Gateway project were asked what the reasons were for their choice, the most popular reasons selected were:
That the plans would not support local businesses, as it might discourage people to spend longer in the town centre or visit less often;
That it would not improve air quality as these proposals will not persuade people to leave the car at home;
That it would be a worse use of public space and make the town centre less attractive to residents and visitors;
That it would be more difficult and less safe for everyone, including people with disabilities or impairments, to get around the town centre.
Among the top themes in the written comments of respondents who felt ‘negative’ or ‘very negative’ about the plans were:
Concern over potential displaced traffic /more congestion;
Concern about air pollution;
Not enough people will use cycleways/cycling won’t work in Harrogate.
Gateway: What happens next?
Feedback from members of the public and businesses is being analysed by the Gateway team led by North Yorkshire County Council following the conclusion of a consultation on preliminary designs for proposals to enhance the gateway to Harrogate around the railway and bus stations.
The findings of the consultation have now been published, and proposals will be developed further, taking into account the feedback.
Final recommendations will be presented to North Yorkshire County Council’s Executive in early 2022.
Should it get the go-ahead, it is anticipated that construction of the scheme will begin in spring 2022 and will last 12 months or so.
Radical revisions or delays to Gateway would be fatal as schemes funded through the Government’s Transforming Cities Fund need to fit specific criteria and be delivered by March 2023 or lose the money.