A campaign has been launched calling for the traffic lights on Leeds Road to be switched off after they went off on Monday morning and drivers claimed traffic flow improved.
Residents and motorists have become used to the familiar sight of queuing traffic at the Leeds Road junction with Hookstone Road over the past six months with roadworks for a new Marks and Spencer food store which is being built.
However on Monday morning (March 31) Leeds Road resident Mark Shearing said he was astonished to see the road clear of traffic at about 8.45am.
He said: “Normally I have to wait for the goodwill of a kind motorist to let me off the drive but it was completely clear. I felt like I was in an alien land or the last man on earth.”
He added: “I have heard other people saying before that when the traffic lights go off then things flow more smoothly, but I didn’t expect it to have such an affect.
“The traffic has been so bad for months, I actually made a bench for the temporary bus stop which is outside my house because people were having to wait so long.”
Traders on Oatlands Parade have said their businesses have suffered because of the roadworks, with footfall estimated to have dropped by around 40 per cent.
Chairman of the Oatlands Traders Association, Toni Medri, said: “When the traffic lights were out on Monday, there was perfect traffic flow, no delays.”
The committee have written to North Yorkshire County Council to request a recovery package which includes changing the angled parking outside the parade of shops to parallel parking and extending the parking area, suspending business rates from when work began on October 2013 until January 2015, with a 50 per cent discount from January 2015 until June 2015 and a media campaign promoting the shops alongside Marks and Spencer.
The County Council has yet to respond to the committee’s requests.
County Coun David Simister (Ukip) has taken to Twitter to campaign to get the traffic lights switched off, tweeting the message: “Traffic lights at #M&S #Harrogate are killing trade and commuting. Turn them off NOW! #switchthemoff”
He said: “Enough is enough! The traders and commuters are at breaking point and the traffic lights must be turned off now.”
Brian Dunsby chief executive of Harrogate chamber of trade said: “This confirms our repeated complaints that the very severe traffic congestion on Leeds Road is actually created by these traffic lights!”
A spokesperson for North Yorkshire County Council said: “The temporary traffic signals are required to ensure highway safety as there is a real risk of a collision if the lights are turned off; as Highway Authority with a duty of care for road safety, we would not support simply turning off the lights without some other form of control. Alternative traffic control arrangements were considered prior to this stage of the works being implemented and the traffic light option was considered to be the least damaging and disruptive to traders and the travelling public.
“NYCC is sympathetic to the impact on the travelling public; the works are now, however, in their final stages and the new store and the highway works will provide much needed improvement to the area very soon.”