The Chief Executive of Harrogate District Chamber of Commerce has criticised the County Council for allowing six week road works in the run up to Christmas.
Northern Gas Network has started a six week programme to replace part of the town’s gas mains network at the ever-busy Parliament Street, Kings Road and Ripon Road junction.
But Sandra Doherty, CEO at Harrogate District Chamber slammed the decision by North Yorkshire County Council to allow the works during the same period as big events such as the Christmas Market and the Country Living Show.
She said: "It affects the way visitors perceive Harrogate and it's not just visitors from a distance it's visitors from three miles down the road. If you have to queue for an hour you're going to be put off for life. We want to encourage people to do their shopping here not Leeds or York. All we are doing is proving that traffic is a nightmare.
"To shut that particular area for six weeks in the run up to Christmas I just can't believe it. The businesses are already struggling because online is affecting their profit margins and its already expensive to park here.
"Everybody knows when it's the school holidays because the road are 100 per cent better than they ever are. If you ask anyone in Harrogate they would be able to tell you when to do it. I just think it's a shame that no-one is consulted at all, it just goes ahead."
But NYCC defended the decision over the essential work.
"A spokesperson for NYCC said: “While the County Council acknowledges the timing of this work may cause some disruption, it must be accepted that there is never an ideal time to allow a main town centre highways junction to be excavated by a utility company.
"Utility companies have a statutory right to access their equipment, within the public highway, in order to carry out essential repairs and apparatus renewals so that their customers continue to be supplied.
“In order to protect trading over the key trading time, the County Council operates a Christmas embargo for all of December on all roadworks across the county.
"Great care is taken to avoid key dates in the annual calendar such as the Great Yorkshire Show, Easter and other major events such as flower shows and cycle races, but essentially we do need to allow work on the highway in order that the network and any services contained in it remain fit for purpose
"There are currently plans for Yorkshire Water to begin major work in January lasting for several weeks, relating to new residential developments in the west of Harrogate.
“Should we have instructed NGN to delay the work in question until the New Year, this would have led to significantly greater impact on traffic movements in and around the town.
“The County Council makes every effort to minimise impact through discussion and co-ordination, but ultimately this work is necessary and we must take into account all needs and aspirations, so that ensuring the residents of Harrogate continue to have a reliable gas supply, particularly in the winter months, also needs to be considered alongside other activities and events such as the Christmas Market.”