Harrogate town centre pedestrianisation: Business group says members oppose closure of streets to vehicles and worry about loss of trade

A poll of Harrogate businesses has shown the majority of the approximately 180 businesses who took part are against plans to reduce Station Parade to a single carriageway and to permanently close off James Street to traffic.

A traffic-free trial in Harrogate town centre

The joint Harrogate District Chamber of Commerce, Harrogate BID and Independent Harrogate survey - which was sent to in excess of 900 businesses - comes ahead of the next round of consultation of the £10.9m Harrogate Station Gateway scheme being published imminently.

The £10.9m project is part of the Government's Transforming Cities Fund and is aiming to create a more attractive entrance to the town with greater priority for pedestrians and cyclists.

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There are similar projects being run in Selby and Skipton but transport officials said Harrogate had proved the most contentious due to resistance from some businesses which are worried about the impact on trade.

In terms of those who responded to the Harrogate District Chamber of Commerce, Harrogate BID and Independent Harrogate's poll, the results showed:-

- 75 per cent of businesses were against the full pedestrianisation of James Street

- 72 per cent were against reducing the A61 Cheltenham Mount to Station Bridge to a single lane

- 30 per cent were in favour of making lower Station Parade one-way

- 42 per cent in favour of two-way cycle lanes on Bower Road and along East Parade to the Odeon roundabout

- 74 per cent were in favour of improving the area in front of Victoria Shopping Centre with the potential to host a range of events and activities

Meanwhile, 79 per cent of those who responded believed that reducing Station Parade to a single carriageway will be of no benefit to town centre businesses, and 68 per cent felt likewise to pedestrianising James Street.

In a joint statement, all three Harrogate business organisations said: “Before the next phase of the Harrogate Station Gateway Project consultation begins, we canvassed the views of business owners and landlords.

“The questions we asked required either a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer, and from conversations we have had with our members and levy payers over many months, the results come as no surprise, i.e keeping the James Street and Station Parade status quo.

“Those who responded also strongly rejected the idea that pedestrianising James Street and reducing Station Parade to a single lane would bring business benefits.

“We would like to thank those who took the time to participate in this survey, the findings of which now be shared with North Yorkshire County Council and Harrogate Council officers and members.

“Whilst we welcome investment in the town centre, we are keen to see it spent improving access for all, not just those arriving by foot or bicycle, whilst at the same time enhancing the existing public spaces with quality materials.

“We also appreciate the funding the authorities has received has to be used in specific ways which will constrain what they do, but we cannot ignore our businesses views regarding this project.

“Now Covid restrictions are lifted, we ask that during the next round of consultation there are plenty of opportunities for the public to inspect the plans and speak to the project team, in person, and not just via online presentations.

“For our part, we will be looking to hold an event for businesses, in particular for those whose livelihoods are dependent on a vibrant town centre, so they can fully understand the benefits we are told this scheme will bring.”

The poll follows consultation commissioned earlier this year by the Gateway project's sponsors, North Yorkshire County Council.

Carried out over four weeks between Wednesday, February, 24, 2021 and Wednesday, March 24, 2021, the report into the consultation was drawn up by the West Yorkshire Combined Authority which is working with the Government to bring sustainable transport measures cross the region in a bid to improve town centres and tackle climate change.

During the four-week engagement period a total of 7,491 visits were made by 5,217 visitors to the Your Voice engagement hub online with 1,101 surveys completed.

One of the most controversial choices to be made, focused on reducing car traffic on Station Parade itself.

The report says 49.1 per cent chose the one-lane traffic option, 26.7 per cent chose the two-lane option, and 24.2 per cent chose neither of these options.

When considering the three options for James Street, 45.per cent would prefer full time pedestrianisation, 16.6 per cent said they would prefer some part-time pedestrianisation with traffic restrictions, 32 per cent would prefer motor vehicle access to be retained at all times and six per cent would not choose any of the options presented.