You may or may not know that there are plans afoot for a huge planning project in the Harrogate town centre, see the plans here:
Whilst ‘IH’ is supportive of the proposed ‘Station Gateway and Sustainable Transport Plans’ in general, we have some serious concerns this may have a negative impact on the local economy.
The Town’s hospitality and retail sector is currently in a VERY FRAGILE AND CRITICAL STATE as a result of the impact of ONLINE COMPETITION and the catastrophic damage of COVID.
Without a COMPREHENSIVE and fully UP-TO-DATE infrastructure plan that avoids ‘POCKET PLANNING’, how damaging could the ‘Station Gateway and Sustainable Transport Plans’ be to Harrogate’s businesses?
HBC conducted a survey in 2013 on the state of retail and hospitality in Harrogate concluding it was healthy. That was then, but things are very different now and the town is now in a critical place.
The 2016 Masterplan is OUT OF DATE and it urgently needs to be revised. It should include comprehensive Park and Ride schemes, provisions for a large number of electric car charging points, extensive safe cycling routes away from traffic and linking with low traffic neighbourhoods, therefore reducing congestion (especially school and rush hour traffic) and in turn reducing carbon emissions. This should also allow good access to the town to cater for the many visitors that come by car to Harrogate from all over the North of England and beyond.
It also fails to address the need for a decent public transport provision for those living in many of Harrogate’s outlying villages, where more often than not there is no regular bus service. And by focusing purely on cycling infrastructure in the centre of town without boosting public transport, both NYCC and HBC are effectively discriminating against village residents, and creating a playground for Harrogate residents only, many of whom will happily get into their cars to drive to work in Leeds and other areas.
I must stress we are not anti-cycling, far from it. One idea being floated that we would be broadly supportive of is holding a number of ‘Cycling Sundays’. This would work by closing a number of central streets to traffic, accompanied by free parking in HBC’s car parks, so that visitors could park up and either walk or cycle around the town. This cautious approach would help gauge the appetite for cycling in Harrogate without too much detrimental economic impact.
Another idea is to emulate a recent initiative in Leeds, where the City Council rewards those with electric vehicles by giving them permits to park for free in all council owned car parks and on the street. DETAILS HERE
Hospitality and retail rely on the income that visitors bring to the town, this is estimated to be between 60/70% of their turnover. Visitors arriving by car need easy access to the town and somewhere convenient and close to the shops/cafes/restaurants to park. To ignore the considerable income that visitors bring will be hugely damaging and they should not be excluded from any surveys, which sadly they appear to be at the moment.
Through our discussions and observations of HBC Councillors’ opinions, they seem to be supportive of the following:
Low traffic neighbourhoods – why then re-routing of traffic through them?
Reducing congestion – reducing double to single lanes is proven to increase congestion.
Reducing carbon emissions – how can carbon emissions come down when more cars are standing still on narrower throughways?
Having good access to the town – we believe this plan will deter some segments of the essential mix of people the town needs to survive.
Here is a study which looks closely at the impact of such plans: https://www.visordown.com/news/industry/research-suggests-cycle-lanes-increase-congestion-and-pollution
We believe in an inclusive mix for everyone: walkers, bus travellers, cyclists, the disabled, commuters, tourists and general visitors.
IH urge HBC and NYCC to implement a well thought out and CAUTIOUSLY-PHASED UPDATED MASTERPLAN that does not further damage the very fragile state of the local economy and will be designed to avoid any costly mistakes.
IH welcomes the Station Gateway plans in general but in the interest of not increasing congestion and carbon emissions feel Station Parade should remain two lanes.
Cyclists should be directed on to East Parade with good links to York Place and beyond, particularly routed through roads that are in low traffic neighbourhoods, allowing for safe cycling on quieter roads. We have discussed these ideas with a few of the major local schools and they too agree with this approach.
To reduce carbon emissions, direct routes should be preferred rather than re-routing general traffic through residential neighbourhoods, or along much longer circular routes through the town centre, which can only create more congestion.
We hope for a renewed ‘Masterplan’ rooted in the now, not the past before any changes occur which may irrevocably damage the town.