Report of the Assistant Chief Executive (Legal and Democratic Services)
Purpose: To hear an oral presentation of this petition from the petition organisers and to seek the Committee’s response.
The petition entitled “STOP The Station Gateway Project and the Pedestrianisation of Harrogate’s Town Centre”. The petition included the various reasons why the petitioners wanted such action to be stopped. The petition was brought before the Committee in accordance with the County Council’s Petitions Scheme.
The petition was presented at the meeting by Anna McIntee of Harrogate Residents’ Association who spoke for 5 minutes.
A statement by Harrogate and District Cycle Action was read out at the meeting on their behalf. The statement advised that Harrogate and District Cycle Action strongly supported Harrogate Station Gateway Scheme.
A written report submitted to the meeting included the comments of Officers from the Business and Environmental Services Directorate concerning the content of the petition.
Members thanked Anna McIntee for her presentation and debated the petition. Points raised during Members’ debate were as follows:-
· The wording of petition was considered by Members to be unfair and biased. In addition, there were factual inaccuracies within the petition and the presentation by the petition organiser, namely:-
· The Harrogate Congestion Study public engagement was not a survey about a bypass, as claimed by the petition organiser. It was a public engagement about curing the problem with congestion in Harrogate. A relief road, or “bypass”, was simply one of the options put forward. The overwhelming response, of the 15,500 persons who had responded at that time, was to call on North Yorkshire to introduce better facilities for walking and cycling and to boost public transport and that was exactly what the Harrogate Station Gateway Scheme sought to do. It represented an investment of some £11 million in a part of the Harrogate town centre which needed an uplift. The Scheme was not simply about highways changes, but included fundamental changes to improve the public realm and that area which most visitors to Harrogate, who arrived by bus and train, saw when they first stepped off their transport.
· The petition said that the Gateway Scheme would “adversely affect everyone in Harrogate”. Members advised that they personally would not be adversely affected by the Scheme. Harrogate Cycle Action felt the same, as did contributors on social media who had reacted to stories about this subject. Members described the phrase “adversely affect everyone in Harrogate” as “a grand sweeping statement which was demonstrably false”.
· The petition stated that the Harrogate Station Gateway Scheme would pedestrianize James Street and this was untrue. Under the Scheme, there would be a partial pedestrianisation at the top portion of James Street. When asked by the Bid, 2/3rds of businesses on James Street supported partial pedestrianisation.
· The petition said that 60%-70% of visitors arrived by car. However, no one was suggesting stopping them, and statistics showed there was ample car parking in car parks to make up for the small number of spaces lost.
· The petition said that businesses would not be able to receive deliveries. Members described this as “a scare story” because only a small amount of pedestrianisation was proposed. For example, Marks and Spencer had pedestrian areas both front and back, deliveries had not been a problem, and delivery areas were marked out on the plans in the Station Gateway Scheme.
· The petition referred to the “wholesale introduction of cycle lanes”. Members described this as “a great misrepresentation”. Under the Gateway Scheme, there would be more and better cycle lanes. Members acknowledged that, assuming nobody stopped using their car, motorists might have to wait a few more seconds to get through town in order that buses could connect more quickly at the bus station. However, they felt that the assumption that nobody would stop using their cars was unrealistic. The Harrogate Station Gateway Scheme was about ensuring that those who wished to use a mode of transport other than the private car had an opportunity to do so. The Scheme was not about banning cars or replacing roads wholesale with cycle lanes.
· This was the second petition from the Harrogate Resident’s Association to be considered by this Committee. The action requested in the first petition, which had been rejected by the Committee, had aimed to stop a Low Traffic Neighbourhood Scheme on Beech Grove. The petitioners had also opposed the Council’s Active Travel Fund scheme on Oatlands Drive. As such, the petition organisers had a history of opposing any schemes which the Council brought forward which aimed to encourage people out of their motor cars and to use sustainable means of transport or to use public transport.
· 10% of the signatories to this petition lived outside North Yorkshire.
· The Harrogate Station Gateway Scheme was due to be considered by the Council’s Executive on 25 January 2022 when a final decision would be made on whether to take the Scheme forward.
County Councillor Michael Harrison advised that, as a member of the Executive, he would find it very useful to know if any Harrogate Member, or any political group, was not supportive of proceeding with the Harrogate Station Gateway Scheme. In response, County Councillors Richard Cooper, Paul Haslam, Jim Clark, Cliff Trotter and John Mann each expressed full support for the Scheme. County Councillor Philip Broadbank advised that he broadly welcomed the Gateway Scheme, although there were other things that he would have liked to have been looked at eg an option of having a two-way scheme on West Park. County Councillor Richard Cooper advised that he believed that a two-way scheme on West Park was outside the parameters of what could be funded through the Transforming Cities Fund so therefore could not be part of this Scheme.
That the action requested by the petition be not taken for the reasons put forward during the debate, but this Committee requests that the petition be taken into consideration as part of the analysis of the results of the second round of consultation on the Harrogate Station Gateway proposals and before a decision is taken on implementation of the Scheme.
Note: Immediately following consideration of this item of business, County Councillor John Mann left the meeting to attend another commitment. County Councillor Michael Harrison took the chair, having been so elected at the beginning of this meeting.
County Councillor Michael Harrison in the Chair