Plans to pedestrianise shopping streets in Harrogate could exacerbate the town’s congestion problems, according to North Yorkshire County Council (NYCC)’s Highways Corporate Director.
As part of Harrogate Borough Council’s (HBC) Local Plan, traffic could be blocked from James Street and Princes Street and Station Square (Victoria Gardens) opposite the station.
The plans are part of the council’s initiative to attract more visitors to the town centre after arguing James Street looks cluttered with parked cars.
However, during a meeting of Harrogate Chamber of Trade and Commerce, David Bowe, Corporate Director of NYCC Highways admitted they would not advise the closure of James Street.
Concerns were raised by invited guests in attendance at the meeting, including Sue Kramer who argued the street acted as one of the main thoroughfares for traffic.
She asked: “It’s encouraging to hear the county council are focusing on travel across the county, specifically Harrogate, but what do you think of the Town Centre Strategy?
“This has proposed pedestrianising James Street but if we want to encourage traffic to come to Harrogate, when they get here there will be less ways to travel in, far less parking and traffic will be encouraged to go down past the Crown Hotel.”
Mr Bowe explained that the plans were a HBC intervention meaning the county council would only consult upon them, but admitted he did have concerns about the proposals.
He said: “What I would say is that we work closely with our colleagues at Harrogate and we will respond as a Highways Authority and put our views forward.
“We would not have the closure of James Street as our solution to traffic problems, we want to make that very clear.
“But, if the overall conclusion was that was what the Town Centre Strategy required then we would work with HBC to mitigate the consequences of it.
“We would not try and stand in the way to stop it, we would simply advise that we wouldn’t recommend it for those particular reasons but we would make the comments very objectively.”
Coun Don Mackenzie, NYCC’s Executive Member for Highways, was also present at the meeting but refused to be drawn on his personal views to the proposal.
However, he did admit that even if pedestrianisation would benefit the town’s businesses, any plans involving a loss of street parking would be a cause of concern.
Coun Mackenzie appeared at the meeting to present NYCC’s Strategic Transport Prospectus which includes a new A59 bypass of Harrogate.
The Conservative councillor has maintained that the introduction of a bypass would ease traffic congestion around Harrogate, in particular Skipton Road, but he faced questions on other measures the county council could pursue.