Members of the public may ask questions or make statements at this meeting if they have given notice and provided the text to Daniel Harry of Democratic Services (contact details below) no later than midday on Friday 27 August 2021. Each speaker should limit themselves to 3 minutes on any item. Members of the public who have given notice will be invited to speak:-
· at this point in the meeting if their questions/statements relate to matters which are not otherwise on the Agenda (subject to an overall time limit of 30 minutes);
· when the relevant Agenda item is being considered if they wish to speak on a matter which is on the Agenda for this meeting.
If you are exercising your right to speak at this meeting, but do not wish to be recorded, please inform the Chairman who will instruct those taking a recording to cease whilst you speak.
There were two public questions. As both related to the closure of Skipton High Street on market days, the questions were taken together.
Public Question 1 - Angela Monaghan.
Mrs Monaghan was unable to attend the meeting and so Daniel Harry read out the question on her behalf, as follows:
I was deeply concerned and disappointed to hear that North Yorkshire County Council has rejected the request of Skipton Town Council to retain the closure of Skipton High Street on market days, after the temporary closure expires at the end of August 2021.
This decision, which appears to have been taken in summary fashion with no consultation, ignores the views of the majority of residents and businesses of Skipton, who supported the closure three to one when surveyed earlier this year.
Closing the high street on market days is beneficial for a number of reasons, some of which were stated in the request for a temporary closure and still remain true:
• It supports social distancing during the Covid pandemic. In spite of recent relaxations of Covid restrictions, rates of infection are still very high and above the national average in the Skipton area (399.3 per 100,000 population today) and social distancing is still a necessary public health requirement that will be required for some time.
• It creates a safer environment for pedestrians.
• It improves air quality for pedestrians and stallholders alike.
• It makes shopping a more pleasurable experience, which will attract local residents and visitors into the town centre and promote the local economy.
• It creates better access for disabled people who struggle with the cobbled streets, so promotes equality.
In addition, we are in the middle of a climate emergency, and all council decisions should reflect NYCC’s commitment to become carbon neutral by 2030. Was a climate change impact assessment carried out before the decision was taken not to retain closure of Skipton High Street on market days?
The NYCC response to the request cited disruption to traffic and deliveries. Yet these have been managed effectively during the last few months, and the majority are still in favour of closure 10.00am-4.00pm on 3 days a week (18 hours out of 168 a week), so why not continue, given the significant benefits?
I request that you ask NYCC to reconsider the decision to refuse this request and take into account the many benefits and views of local Skipton residents and business when doing so.
Public Question 2 - Susannah Daley, CEO Peel entertainment Group Ltd.
We have heard in the local press from residents about their views on the success or otherwise of the High Street closure in Skipton on Market days but very little from the businesses of Skipton.
My company owns several businesses based in the Skipton area, one of which is Alexanders Grand Café, Bar and Terrace which is situated on the High Street. We invested circa £3,000,000 (3 million) pounds in our project on the High Street bringing back to life a Georgian building that had become run down. We painstakingly and lovingly restored it and added a contemporary terrace which is an attractive feature on the other side of the High Street. In the four years so far since opening Alexander’s has served both residents and visitors as a great place to eat and drink and or a reason to come and enjoy occasions and celebrations or just some quality time in the town. We believe we have been a reason for some people to visit Skipton (some of our guests tell us this) and for some others an added bonus if they were visiting anyway. The venue has turned over approximately £3,500,000 (three and a half million) of revenue in four years, even with the COVID pandemic. We have created over 20 new jobs in the town centre.
We made this investment for two reasons, one because we have been resident in the area as a business for over twenty years and we felt it would be good to put some energy and investment back into the town and secondly because of our belief that Skipton can be become an even better tourist attraction whilst serving its residents with a lively and active retail and events scene.
The markets have been a long established tradition in Skipton and people enjoy coming knowing they will be here. The other events held by the town council like the Christmas markets have been a great success and are very strong drivers for trade in Skipton. We believe these closures have hugely benefitted business and residents alike. They have firstly made visiting Skipton a safer and more accessible on Market Days, families can wander up and down the high street with prams and children without any concern, and accessibility for wheelchairs and mobility scooters is hugely improved. It makes following COVID guidelines easier for all by allowing the stalls to face the other direction which in turn makes them easier to access and leaves the high street less congested and therefore easy to use and more attractive to visitors. We have seen great business coming on these days, significantly higher than when the market runs in its traditional manner with the High Street open. It also means that residents and visitors are not dicing with death with the vans that had taken to parking irresponsibly at the side of the road making a trip down the High Street on market days even more perilous.
We accept and understand that in order to do this there have to be traffic diversions, however being resident in the town, we have canvassed our 50+ staff and all (no exceptions) feel that the diversions are relatively small and worth it for the gain of having a safer space and a more thriving town. We therefore we ask you to consider making this a permanent fixture to further improve the economic, social cohesion and safety of Skipton.
Response – Daniel Herbert
A response to both questions was given by Daniel Herbert, Improvement Manager, Highways and Transportation, BES, NYCC as follows:
The closure was implemented to facilitate social distancing requirements to allow the market to reopen safely once the lockdown restrictions began to be eased. It was implemented at a rapid pace using a temporary traffic regulation order which can only be in place for 18 months and cannot be extended beyond that timeframe without becoming permanent. The temporary order will end after the Saturday market on 4th September 2021. A permanent traffic regulation order requires a different legal process involving a period of statutory advertisement inviting formal objections.
The temporary traffic regulation order was implemented using the powers that the County Council has as local highway authority which are delegated by the Executive to the Corporate Director, Business and Environmental Services in accordance with the Delegation Scheme contained within the County Council’s Constitution. Although the closure accommodated social distancing through the pandemic unfortunately at the same time it interrupted public transport / school transport services so had a knock on effect of increasing traffic congestion on the alternative routes. It is appreciated that users of the market will have enjoyed the benefits of the removal of traffic from the High Street but we must look at the wider implications across the highway network.
The current road network does not currently have the capacity to accommodate the extra traffic that comes with the removal of a main route through the town such as the High Street. We are also aware that in the next few weeks roadworks will commence on The Bailey that are expected to run until Christmas for highway improvements funded by the new development and High Street will be the advertised diversion for any road closures that are required. In addition there are utility works planned in the town centre that have been on hold until post the lockdown reopening of businesses to aid the recovery along with major highway schemes next year including the Transforming Cities Fund which will see us delivering significant improvements for pedestrians and cyclists accessing the station and again High Street will be the advertised diversion for any road closures.
The desire being expressed by some who would like to see the closure of the High Street for market days made permanent is noted but hopefully the information provided above explains the rationale why that is not advisable at this time and for at least the rest of 2021 and 2022. We will look at this issue again later in 2022 though as part of the wider conversation about the further improvements in the town on the back of initiatives such as the Transforming Cities Fund project.
There followed a discussion during which it was County Councillors agreed that this was a contentious issue locally and that it was hoped that there could be further dialogue between the County Council and the Town Council to find a compromise. The complexity of managing modern traffic movements and pedestrian access in a Victorian market place and surrounding streets was noted.