Harrogate council leader's warning over ‘abuse’ and fake news in cycle paths debate

The leader of  Harrogate Borough Council has said the town deserves better than the standard of some of the debate over current plans for a sustainable transport future.

Friday, 12th March 2021, 5:38 pm
James Street in Harrogate could be at last partly pedestrianised under proposals to give priority to sustainable transport in the town centre.

Coun Richard Cooper said: “Drop the anonymous abuse. Come out in to the open and join the debate.

“You will be listened to; we can work together in a partnership of respect even if it isn’t one of complete agreement.

“Nationally and internationally we see the dangers of fake news, of anonymous social media accounts, of trolling. It’s time to show that locally we are better than that.”

Coun Cooper’s remarks follow suspicions of a spate of fake Facebook accounts attacking ‘green’ policies which seek to give more priority to cycling and walking.

North Yorkshire County Council, in conjunction with Harrogate Borough Council, is currently seeking to introduce three separate initiatives to turn the town away from car use towards sustainable transport with Government funding.

The Gateway Project in the Station Parade area, ‘Low Traffic Neighbourhoods’ at Beech Grove and Lancaster Road and the new cycle paths at Victoria Avenue, Oatlands Drive and on the A59 out of Knaresborough towards Starbeck.

After one anti-bike campaigner called ‘Tara Gunne’ appeared on last week’s letters page in the Harrogate Advertiser slamming plans for cycle lanes, road closures and pedestrianisations as the "next major step in Harrogate’s decay", reader James Smith got in touch with this newspaper.

Mr Smith, who supports sustainable transport poliicies in general, said: “Myself and some friends looked into it.

“In total six Facebook accounts making heated remarks related to the pedestrianisation of James Street and the Station Gateway appeared not to be genuine.

“Some of us are on Facebook trying to create a balanced conversation about issues which are important to the future of the town.

“We should be able to look at the realities of the situation and have an adult debate.

“It’s a shame when unknown people deliberately try to raise the temperature and to distract people from looking into the details of the plans.”

Coun Cooper said there was a serious debate to be had on the future of Harrogate’s roads and streets but the abuse was not helping.

He said: “The future of Harrogate town centre is important. Your vision may be different or you may be fearful of the impact of changes on yourself but to abuse others and to try to whip people in to a frenzy is wrong.”

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