Harrogate Gateway: Groups raise concerns over increases in traffic and disruption
Organisations across Harrogate have raised concerns over potential increases in traffic and disruption for visitors if the town’s £7.9 million Station Gateway project goes ahead.
If accepted, the plans to spruce up the Station Parade area and give priority to cyclists and pedestrians over car use would be the biggest shake-up to Harrogate town centre in decades.
North Yorkshire County Council Harrogate Borough Council and West Yorkshire Combined Authority, have secured £7.9m of Government funding for the scheme and options include the possibility of reducing Station Parade to one lane of traffic, with other measures such as introducing two new bus priority areas at Lower Station Parade and Cheltenham Parade, junction upgrades, new cycle lanes and storage also on the table.
The partial or full pedestrianisation of James Street is also being considered as part of the plans.
And the results of the Harrogate Advertiser Sustrainable Transport Survey, published in last week’s edition, show that although the majority of residents are in favour of better infrastructure for cycling, walking and public transport, they are still very much divided in how this should be achieved and whether the Gateway scheme is the best way to solve the problem.
Harrogate Civic Society has now raised concerns about some aspects of the project and is calling for a clearer traffic policy to be introduced for the whole town.
A statement from the Civic Society reads: “There is a problem with making comments on these specific options, which focus on a relatively small section of Harrogate town centre, when there is no indication of these being part of a longer-term, integrated traffic policy for the wider area.
“As with previous proposals, some of which have been implemented, there is the very real possibility that, without a clear traffic policy for the whole of the town, these changes will in the future be seen as having been unnecessary or detrimental.”
Concerns over traffic have been at the centre of discussions around the Gateway plan, which closed for public consultation on Wednesday.
Earlier this week, highways boss at North Yorkshire County Council, Coun Don Mackenzie, said plans to reduce Station Parade to one lane of traffic could cause long queues on the surrounding streets.
He told a meeting of the Harrogate and Knaresborough Area Constituency Committee that while the project has “huge advantages”, the effect this may have on southbound A61 traffic is a “major concern”.
Harrogate Civic Society is now calling for a review of the impact of reopening West Park and Parliament Street to two-way traffic and whether this could counteract the problem. It added: “One of the major problems for traffic in Harrogate is that, in the absence of an effective bypass, through-traffic has to use the town centre. Whilst northbound traffic can drive straight through, southbound traffic is forced around a lengthy and contorted route - this will potentially be made worse by the proposed one-lane proposal.
“The Society would like to see a study of the impact of re-opening West Park and Parliament Street to, at least some, two-way traffic. This could relieve many of the problems that have been identified as the reasons for these present proposals."
Independent Harrogate, the organisation which represents 187 businesses in the town centre, has also voiced concern the plans may have a negative impact on the local economy.
While the body is supportive of the sustainable travel improvements on the whole, it is skeptical that current plans may now be outdated following the Covid-19 pandemic and is urging the local authorities to consider other options, such as more cycle lanes, Park & Ride schemes, and installing more facilities for the parking and charging of electric cars. A spokesperson said:
“We believe in an inclusive mix for everyone: walkers, bus travellers, cyclists, the disabled, commuters, tourists and general visitors.
“Independent Harrogate urges Harrogate Borough Council and North Yorkshire County Council to implement a well thought out and cautiously-phased masterplan, that does not further damage the very fragile state of the local economy, and will be designed to avoid any costly mistakes.”
Harrogate Business Improvement District (BID) also said local authorities need to be “confident the proposed changes will ensure Harrogate can thrive, and prosper, long into the future” in order for the plans to go ahead.
It has urged North Yorkshire County Council to consider sending full details of the Gateway proposals via email, and post, to all Harrogate residents to keep them informed.
BID Chair, Sara Ferguson, added: “We hope this investment will help to support our journey to recovery, but urge that consideration is given to consultation feedback to ensure we capture the views and ideas of businesses, residents and visitors, to shape and influence the proposed plans.”