Should Parliament Street be two-way: Pros and cons of an idea that's fuelling the traffic debate in Harrogate

To some, it seems obvious that the A61’s historic route through the centre of Harrogate joining Leeds and Ripon Roads should be two-way.

Friday, 4th June 2021, 3:49 pm
Updated Friday, 4th June 2021, 3:50 pm
To local groups such as Harrogate Civic Society - and many readers of the Harrogate Advertiser - it’s simply a matter of common sense to bring an end to the one-way section which currently runs along West Park and Parliament Street.
To local groups such as Harrogate Civic Society - and many readers of the Harrogate Advertiser - it’s simply a matter of common sense to bring an end to the one-way section which currently runs along West Park and Parliament Street.

To local groups such as Harrogate Civic Society - and many readers of the Harrogate Advertiser - it’s simply a matter of common sense to bring an end to the one-way section which currently runs along West Park and Parliament Street.

One recent letter writer, David Turner Rhodes, who was the council’s head of conservation and design from 1990 to 2005, said: “It seems only logical to face up to a 21st century lifestyle for Harrogate and review the suitability of a simple two-way traffic flow for the A61 through Harrogate.

“Driving north from Leeds, the two-way traffic works perfectly well up to the Prince of Wales roundabout and, again, after Parliament Street, two -way traffic flows well north towards Ripon.”

As a cause, bringing back two-way traffic has been bubbling way for a long time - 50 years to be precise.

In fact, it has never truly gone away since the road was first realigned as part of an ambitious, yet ultimately doomed, plan by West Riding County Council - which handled traffic matters in those days in Harrogate before local government reorganisation in 1974.

HARROGATE HISTORIAN MALCOLM NEESAM: WHY A61 IS ONE-WAY ON PARLIAMENT STREET

Respected local historian Malcolm Neesam says Harrogate’s traffic problems go back 50 years and the last realignment of the A61 on West Park and Parliament Street.

He says the one way system was implemented in 1970 as the first phase of a five-phased plan by the then county county in co-operation with Harrogate Borough Council.

Later stages would have involved a new dual carriageway ploughing through the town centre from Springfield Avenue to the Stray via fly-overs, Bower Road, East Parade and York Place with massive demolition work.

In the end, only the introduction of one-way traffic on that stretch of the A61 ever happened, thanks partly to public opposition.

Mr Neesam argues it makes no sense to retain the one-way system and it’s time that North Yorkshire County Council examined the possibility of reverting to the two-way traffic system.

THE IMPACT OF THE GATEWAY PROJECT

What has relit the fire for many is the current county council’s ongoing £7.9 million Gateway project to reshape the area around Station Parade in a way which gives greater priority for pedestrians, cyclists and public transport over cars to reduce carbon emissions and boost the town centre economy.

One reader, David Pearson, an architectural technologist. wrote to the Advertiser arguing that, in the absence of reverting to two-way traffic on the A61 or building a new bypass, the knock-on effects of the Gateway project would need major alterations and restrictions in nearby roads.

He said: “If Station Parade is closed, and I can see the attraction for some specific reasons, you then have to look at the impact on the rest of the roads around the area and as you alter adjacent roads you then have to look at the impact to the next layer of road out wards.

“I am guessing that the county council’s idea from some years ago of using Bower Road, East Parade and Station Bridge is the preferred route again?

“That route could be used but there are major problems to avoid creating new bottlenecks or accommodating traffic from heavy lorries.”

WHAT NORTH YORKSHIRE COUNTY COUNCIL SAYS

North Yorkshire County Council’s executive member for transport, Coun Don Mackenzie, admits there would be some alterations if the project’s strongest measures such as cutting traffic to one lane on Station Parade were to be introduced.

Coun Mackenzie said: “There would be little junction realignment work needed as part of the Gateway project since the direction of travel remains unchanged in the Station Parade area.

“But there would be some junction changes. The Gateway scheme includes also making the north end of Station Parade beyond Cheltenham Parade one-way in a southbound direction only.”

But Coun Mackenzie also told the Harrogate Advertiser that the project’s feasibility designs had identified a hitlist for improving junctions which could help traffic flows post-Gateway.

These include:

Cheltenham Mount/ Cheltenham Parade;

Bower Road/ Station Parade;

Cheltenham Mount/ Bower Road/ Mount Parade - including no entry for westbound traffic on to Cheltenham Mount from Bower Road;

Cheltenham Parade/ Station Parade;

James Street/ Princes Street;

Albert Street/ Station Parade/ Station Bridge - one way direction on Albert Street reversed;

Station Bridge/ East Parade.

But Coun Mackenzie dismisses completely the idea that the A61 could provide a straight route through the town for those wishing to travel from the South to the North and vice versa, without the need to make diversions around the town causing unnecessary congestion and pollution.

Coun Mackenzie said firmly: “This simplistic reasoning takes no account of the configuration of the wider town centre road network, which is so arranged to fit in with the current one-way flows of traffic.”

HARROGATE CIVIC SOCIETY'S VIEWS ON A61

Harrogate Civic Society argues North Yorkshire County Council’s Gateway proposals for the Station Parade area risks forcing south bound traffic on the A61 away from Station Parade into neighbouring roads and is wanting a study of the impact of re-opening West Park and Parliament Street to at least some two-way traffic.

It argues one of the major problems for traffic in Harrogate is that through traffic has to use the town centre. While north bound traffic can drive straight through along the A61, south bound traffic is forced around a lengthy route to Station Parade.

As a result, it has a strong preference for retaining two lanes for vehicles on Station Parade as part of the Gateway project.

It doubts vehicular traffic will use Cheltenham Mount in preference to Cheltenham Parade while a height restriction for traffic going under the railway bridge over Bower Road will also create problems under the present proposals.

CONCLUSION

It’s unlikely the clamour for the return of a straight line through Harrogate from Leeds to Ripon is going to disappear. But the path to major changes to traffic arrangements in Harrogate has rarely been straight-forward in the past.

Sagas like the A61 have a tendency to turn unexpected corners or end up in a cul de sac.

The Harrogate Advertiser previously alerted its readers to news that members of the Harrogate Chamber of Trade and Commerce were to receive presentations on a number of proposed town centre developments, including a new masterplan to pedestrianise Parliament Street and divert A61 traffic down Montpellier Hill, and a new transport interchange at Station Parade.

The date of that particular article was way back in 2012...

A message from the Editor

Thank you for reading this story on our website. While I have your attention, I also have an important request to make of you.

In order for us to continue to provide high quality and trusted local news on this free-to-read site, I am asking you to also please purchase a copy of our newspaper.

Our journalists are highly trained and our content is independently regulated by IPSO to some of the most rigorous standards in the world. But being your eyes and ears comes at a price. So we need your support more than ever to buy our newspapers during this crisis.

With the coronavirus lockdown having a major impact on many of our local valued advertisers - and consequently the advertising that we receive - we are more reliant than ever on you helping us to provide you with news and information by buying a copy of our newspaper.