A PLANNED revamp of the town centre would “spoil” Harrogate and spark an exodus of shoppers, traders have warned.
At a public meeting, retailers, residents and politicians criticised the £750,000 North Yorkshire County Council scheme, which would divert traffic away from Station Parade, and see James Street and Prince’ Street pedestrianised.
Sue Kramer, of Crown Jewellers on Commercial Street, said she was “horrified” by the proposals, telling the Advertiser: “Now is the time people have got to stand up and be counted.
“If Harrogate is spoilt by these changes, it will be too late to cry about it afterwards.”
Retailers say the proposals would reduce the number of parking spaces in the centre of Harrogate, threatening independent businesses.
“We’re in the middle of a terrible economic time and business is hard enough for everybody,” Mrs Kramer said.
“A lot of us are one or two man bands and if we are affected, we haven’t got anything to fall back on.
“If the amount of shoppers coming to Harrogate reduces because of a lack of parking, everyone will suffer.”
Rachel Gant, from ski wear shop Christian Xavier, said the changes could cause the town to lose its distinctiveness. “Harrogate is known as a place of style and affluence, by just filling it with chain shops we are killing its identity,” she said.
“If we start losing our identity, we might as well just become like Leeds.”
Other traders say that if the road changes go ahead, they “may as well close now”.
Harrogate & Knaresborough MP Andrew Jones, who attended last Thursday’s meeting, said: “These plans are nonsensical.
“To send traffic scooting all round town, through residential areas, past two elderly persons’ residences and through two new sets of traffic lights is a recipe for traffic chaos.
“The amount of opposition – from residents and traders alike – is gathering pace.
“I am sure the county council will listen carefully and I hope they will abandon the plans.”
On Tuesday, the authority announced it would be extending its public consultation on the issue by a month, to May 16.
County Coun Gareth Dadd, executive member for highways, said: “It is clear that these proposals and suggestions have sparked a lively public debate, particularly about traffic movements in the centre of Harrogate.
“We feel it is important to give the people of Harrogate every opportunity to make their views known, and that the best way of achieving this is to extend the consultation period.”
At last week’s meeting Coun Jean Butterfield said she would take Coun Dadd around the route in a bid to persuade him of the plan’s shortcomings.
“It’s not one or two people who are against it. I’ve never known this strength of feeling about anything in the town centre,” she said.
The county council will stage two public exhibitions as part of the consultation process, with full details to be released shortly.
For more information about the plans, or to respond, go to www.north yorks.gov.uk/harrogatetransport
Mrs Kramer has invited those opposing the plans to contact the action group at firstname.lastname@example.org