Harrogate Chamber, Harrogate BID and Independent Harrogate have claimed that the views of the business community have been “continually ignored” in a joint letter to Harrogate Borough Council regarding the Station Gateway project.
The £10.9m scheme, funded by the tax payer, is set to be approved at a council meeting next Tuesday (25th January).
Yet the groups have pointed to a joint survey they conducted in 2021 which discovered that the “vast majority” were against the narrowing of the A61 from two lanes to one and the pedestrianisation of James Street.
The joint letter, directed at Members of North Yorkshire County Council’s Executive Committee, reads:
“Sadly, the views of the business community have been continually ignored, as have those of other key organisations, in particular Harrogate Civic Society, residents’ organisations and individuals, who believe what is being proposed will NOT bring the benefits being espoused.
“The Conservative Party, of which you are a member, prided itself on being the party of business. Sadly, this doesn’t appear to be the case anymore!
“An economic impact survey has not been undertaken, yet we have been told the Project will be good for business. We are told the Project will encourage those who live close to the town centre to leave the car at home and travel in by bus, bicycle or on foot. By doing so, they will stay longer and spend more money.
“What it fails to do is take into account those tens-of-thousands of visitors who live outside the District, and choose to come here to stay in our hotels and guest houses, and spend their money in our shops, restaurants, bars and entertainment venues.
“Harrogate is also used as a base to visit other areas within the county, and again these visitors patronise local businesses. And how many of these visitors travel here by bus, train, bicycle or on foot?
“And what of those who live in Harrogate’s outlying villages where there isn’t a regular bus service? Has any consideration been given to them? And as for those businesses that can’t endure anymore disruption, what of them also?
“With ongoing pressure from the internet, and out-of-town shopping centres with ample free parking, what we want is a town that is accessible to all!
“For the last two years, town centre businesses have suffered at the hands of the Covid pandemic and now you are proposing to add at least another 12-months of major disruption and misery.
“For you it will be easy to support the proposal in front of you, as of next year North Yorkshire County Council will not exist in its current form and some of you may not even seek re-election. Before you cast your vote, we urge you to carefully consider the businesses in Harrogate town centre and their collective views.
“Unlike you, they will have to live with the consequences of your decision for many years to come, and ask you to vote against implementing the Harrogate Station Gateway Project until the economic evidence to support the Project has been detailed.”
The council has said it still wants to push ahead with the proposals.
A report to Tuesday’s (18th January) meeting said:
“The proposals will have an overall positive impact on the local economy, air quality and the attractiveness, accessibility and safety of the town centre.
“It is therefore considered appropriate that the proposals be taken forward through detailed design and implementation.”
Councillor Don Mackenzie, executive member for access at North Yorkshire County Council, said in a statement:
“These proposals represent the biggest investment in Harrogate, Selby and Skipton town centres in decades and aim to increase productivity by making it quicker, easier and safer for people to travel around and connect with economic opportunities.
“We want to encourage more people to travel by foot, bike and public transport because it is good for health and the environment by promoting fitness and reducing congestion.
“The spending will also provide a welcome boost for our town centres after two difficult years of trading during the pandemic.”