Proposals from Harrogate’s political leaders to make the district a “beacon of sustainable transport” have been welcomed by environmental groups.
The announcement that both Harrogate Borough Council and the town’s MP Andrew Jones favoured options such as giving buses priority over cars and wholesale pedestrianisation has received a cautious welcome from the county council, which recently completed a major public consultation over traffic congestion.
But local green groups have signalled their complete support for taking bold steps in Harrogate town centre.
Zero Carbon Harrogate, which has been working in a constructive way with local authorities since it was launched in early 2016, said the council was correct in thinking tinkering was not enough.
A grander vision was needed if quality of life was to be maintained and carbon emissions targets met.
The chair, Jemima Parker, said: “For too long we have planned our towns around the movement of cars. We need to be asking what do we want Harrogate and Knaresborough to be like, not how are we going to solve traffic congestion.
“It is time to think about our towns as beautiful historic places and then work out how we get around without degrading them.”
As the main authority overseeing roads and transport, North Yorkshire County Council would, by necessity, have to be at the heart of any Harrogate traffic solution.
At the moment, it is analysing the 14,896 responses from the public over traffic congestion before deciding later in the year which, of the many options to go ahead with.
County Councillor Don Mackenzie, executive member for access, acknowledged the borough council’s proposals were “significant” but he said they already formed part of its own ‘packages’ of reforms.
He said: “The Harrogate Borough Council response, whilst significant, is one of almost 15,000 replies to our 12-week public consultation.
“The preferred list of options put forward by the borough council is included in the two packages of measures identified in the Congestion Study, and all have the potential to bring beneficial results.
“Two-tier local government only works properly when county and districts work well together for the benefit of our residents.”
So far Harrogate’s main business organisations have remained quiet on Harrogate Borough Council’s approach.
In fact, rather than supporting further pedestrianisation in Harrogate town centre, as many as 80 local traders are calling for just the reverse - more free parking.
Harrogate council leader Coun Richard Cooper is hoping all those who opposed the possibility of a ‘Nidd Gorge relief road’ will now work with both councils to make a success of a sustainable future.
He admits that not all sections of Harrogate may welcome a sustainable vision once the plans stop being “fluffy” and start becoming a reality.
But Zero Carbon Harrogate, a registered not-for-profit organisation dedicated to making Harrogate District a net zero carbon community by 2050, agrees it’s time the whole town united in action.
Jemima Parker said: “We all need to be part of this, not just the council. We are making the journeys, these are our streets, we all suffer the air pollution, noise, visual intrusion, carbon emissions and burden of car dominance.”