Town centre revamp - first plans submitted

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A PLANNING application is set to be submitted within the next few days as part of a property company’s plans to redevelop the centre of Harrogate.

Lateral Property Group intends to apply for permission to upgrade and improve Harrogate House at 33-35 Parliament Street.

The company is also behind the current proposals to pedestrianise the area to create a modern town square and shopping area and described the upcoming plans as the first phase in a series of proposals for Parliament Street.

The building, which is currently occupied by Multiyork at the ground floor level, could undergo a transformation to include retail, restaurant and residential use and to change the appearance of the building.

Lateral’s managing director Philip Lunn said: “This is an opportunity to enhance the quality and appearance of the building.

“This will benefit Parliament Street as a whole in terms of the nature of uses proposed and the improvements to the appearance of Harrogate House, arguably Harrogate’s ugliest building. I sincerely hope we can transform this ugly duckling into a swan.”

The building has previously been criticised by author Bill Bryson as “a sixties block that rises, like some kind of half-witted practical joke, a dozen or so storeys into the air in a long street of innocuous Victorian structures”. Lateral said it intends to give the street a “fresh look” to integrate with the historic buildings in the area, which it describes as a key gateway to the Montpellier Quarter and surrounding attractions.

Meanwhile, the debate over the company’s proposals to pedestrianise Parliament Street and re-route traffic down Montpellier Hill has continued to rage this week. Among those raising concerns were Bettys and historian and Advertiser columnist Malcolm Neesam, both of whom said their comments in favour of the plans had been taken out of context by the developer.

Both Mr Neesam and Andrew Baker, the new group chief executive of Bettys and Taylors, said while they had offered their personal support to outline proposals to improve Parliament Street, this support wasn’t an endorsement of the plan in its entirety as implied. Mr Baker said a full consultation with the public was needed to ensure the whole plan was the best idea for Harrogate, while Mr Neesam said he did not think the plans to divert traffic down Montpellier Hill would ever be accepted.

Business leaders have this week provisionally welcomed the plans following a presentation to Harrogate Chamber of Trade and Commerce by Mr Lunn.

Chamber president Simon Cotton said: “We want to encourage and see investment in the town and see developers like Philip putting forward proposals and then those with the expertise being allowed to scrutinise them and put forward amendments.”

Numerous other readers have given their views about the proposals and, while the majority were not against the idea of improving Parliament Street, most raised serious concerns about the impact for vehicles, including buses, if traffic were re-routed.

l For more on this story, see Letters on Page 6, Bygone Harrogate on Page 12 and Business on Page 16.