All the signs are that Harrogate’s infrastructure is struggling to cope.
Traffic congestion is a serious issue – Wetherby and Skipton Road all day, Leeds Road from 4pm, the Burn Bridge Road/A61 junction (fast becoming an accident blackspot?), Cheltenham Parade often at a standstill; station car parks overflowing (Hornbeam Park, Pannal), and, as ever, pressure on schools, hospitals and other local services.
I am sure I am not informed of all the planning pressures or proposals. However, from what I have heard of the potential housing development plans I am further concerned for the future of the town.
Of course it needs to change with time; as a community we have to take our share of responsibilities for an expanding population, and no doubt ‘keep up with the times’.
On the other hand, if change destroys the essence of the town, we all lose.
The proposals for housing development associated with the town are at best sobering. In many respects they suggest we are heading for a ‘greater Harrogate’ with problems which will dwarf those of today.
Some piecemeal house in-filling development seems eminently sensible: the potential larger scale in-filling and expansion would completely change Harrogate and almost certainly choke it.
I can see the word ‘nimby’ being raised. However, to turn the scene on its head: personally we were attracted to live here for what Harrogate had to offer. Potential new residents will no doubt feel the same - for now - but will the new (as well as current) residents be ‘sold short’, finding a devalued town falling well below expectations?
At another level, will exhibition, conference trade, and even show attendance dry up because transport in and out of the town is totally inadequate?
I recognise that the council will be under serious pressure from outside agencies to provide new housing. I also understand that such issues are for Harrogate and District, not just the town.
I would urge the local council to provide a vision for the future which places high emphasis on how the district as a whole could be developed – eg a new village at Flaxby Moor (complete with the necessary services).
The present options appear to promote more expansion of the town to the likely eventual disappointment of us all.