Power cuts are driving pre-Christmas shoppers away, town’s traders warn

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BUSINESS leaders have warned that power failures in the run-up to Christmas in one of Yorkshire’s leading retail destinations are causing “irreparable damage” by driving shoppers away.

The latest power cut to blight Harrogate left many traders counting the cost last Saturday after an 11,000 volt electrical equipment failure at one of Northern Powergrid’s main substations caused problems for nearly 20,000 customers just after 1.30pm.

Engineers restored power to 16,700 customers in less than an hour, although many businesses remained without electricity for the afternoon and had to close. Power was fully restored by 6.40pm.

Northern Powergrid has now offered to pay the cost of 1,200 spaces in Harrogate’s two main multi-storey car parks throughout tomorrow so shoppers can leave their vehicles for free for last- minute Christmas Eve trips.

The Harrogate Chamber of Trade and Commerce’s vice-president, Peter Jesper, claimed the town had been hit by power cuts throughout the last three winters – including a day-long electricity failure on a Saturday in December last year. Mr Jesper’s stationery firm, Jespers of Harrogate, which was established in 1901, was once again hit last Saturday when the power was out for 20 minutes.

He said: “At this time of economic uncertainty, the last thing that businesses need is to be faced with not knowing whether they will have a full day of trading in the run-up to Christmas. It is soul-destroying, extremely frustrating and it is causing irreparable damage to trade. Shoppers are not going to keep coming back to Harrogate if their trips are being affected by power cuts.”

The free parking will be on offer at the Victoria and Jubilee multi-storey car parks throughout tomorrow. Northern Powergrid’s director of customer operations, John Barnett, maintained power cuts were “very rare”, but said the company was acutely aware of the problems caused by failures.

He added: “We wanted to provide a gesture of goodwill and we are delighted to be able to take up Harrogate Borough Council’s suggestion regarding providing free parking arrangements in the town on Christmas Eve.”