HBC and NYCC officially adopted the Harrogate District Local Plan in March 2020. This plan was first drafted in 2014, in a time before Harrogate felt the full effects of the national damage to the High Street, and before COVID-19. The Plan proposes far-reaching changes to Harrogate including increased pedestrianisation, the reduction of car traffic and an increase in cycle access.
Independent Harrogate is broadly in favour of many of these initiatives in the longer term. Who could not fail to be enthused by the images of al fresco dining, tree-lined streets and grand gateways? Our 200 members also worry about climate change and increasing pollution and would in due course like to see substantial changes, but they do so against the hard reality of running profitable businesses which are the lifeblood of the community where we all live and work. Everyone needs to understand that Harrogate has no guaranteed right to survive, let alone reclaim its place as a jewel in Yorkshire’s crown; any reduction of access to the town centre in the short term is suicidal.
As Independent Harrogate has long warned, there is a crisis in Harrogate town centre. We urge both HBC and NYCC to stop playing poker with their precious asset, to listen to their business rate payers and to address the damaged fundamentals of Harrogate before proceeding with their long-term vision; and then do so in consultation with Independent Harrogate’s members and all businesses who trade there.
Nationally, there are 50,000 fewer shops on our High Streets than just over a decade ago (bbc.co.uk 13.01.20), and footfall is down by 20.5% over the same period (Springboard).
While the crisis hitting the high street is a national problem, Harrogate has always been regarded as more resilient than most towns.
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