Letter: Don’t let dust gather on development plan

The pleasant public space at the Victoria Centre, Harrogate
The pleasant public space at the Victoria Centre, Harrogate

The Advertiser’s page one article in the edition of May 24 referred to calls to improve the town centre, including the suggestion that an entertainments space be created outside the Victoria Centre. There is little use in creating such amenities if a few years after, the council authorises their destruction.

When David Cullearn designed the Victoria Centre, he used land that had been bought by Harrogate Council for use as a public open space to create a south facing arena, embellished with fountains, where arts events and street theatre could occur. Yet within a few years of its opening in 1992, this arena was lost when a new owner set about to maximise the Victoria Centre’s retailing space.

Harrogate’s planners allowed the arena to be filled in and paved over, the resulting arid space being used regularly to display motor cars and fast food stalls, which to my eyes are ugly and out of place opposite the railway station where they are often the first view of Harrogate to greet visitors.

In December 2014 Peter Brett Associates presented Harrogate Borough Council with their ‘Town Centre Strategy and Masterplan’, commissioned by the council at very considerable expense and given much publicity by the Advertiser in their editions of January 22 and October 22, 2015, January 14, 2016 and April 14, 2016. But apart from rejecting the sensible suggestion of the company that a town centre bowling alley be provided for young people, the rest of the report appears to have drifted out of view.

My hope is that those who call for town centre improvements will be familiar with Peter Brett’s report and not make the mistake of commissioning further expensive consultants to produce any more dust gathering paper documents.

Malcolm Neesam