Dear Reader - Good public transport is vital + shops' future is independent

The LED notice last Saturday afternoon at the crowded bus stop facing Leeds’ celebrated temple to craft beer, North Bar, near the Headrow said: “36 bus to Harrogate cancelled. Delays caused by congestion.”

Friday, 27th December 2019, 3:02 pm
Updated Friday, 27th December 2019, 3:04 pm
Bus transport is a big part of a greener better future for Harrogate.

Oh well, at least shoppers did seem to be coming out for Christmas.

As it happens, the next bus was along in less than ten minutes but the incident does show the importance of having a good public transport system.

The day before I’d been sitting at a small gathering of councillors as they kindly took the time to explain the mysteries of The Transforming Cities Fund.

The jargon came thick and fast but within the terminology lay something potentially important.

If North Yorkshire County Council’s pain-stakingly put together pitch for millions of pounds from a giant-sized Government funding stream (apologies for that bit of jargon) is successful, then significant change will come to Harrogate town centre and its buses and cars and trains.

It might also mean the centre of Harrogate becomes truly bicycle and pedestrian-friendly.

Or it might not.

The whole thing was new to me but, it turns out, the county council and Harrogate Borough Council and their partners (sorry, jargon again) have been working on the complications of such a bid for a good few years.

In the modern world just because it looks like nothing is happening it doesn’t mean nothing is happening.

Despite all the beer and dancing and beer and tramping from place to place on Friday night during this newspaper’s annual Christmas night out I remained professional enough for this single thought to hit me - everywhere we have been tonight has been an ‘independent.’

Neither Starling’s, nor Major Tom’s nor Christies was owned or run by a national or, even, international company.

Not that this is a guarantee in itself of quality, though it’s nice to think my hard-earned pennies are going back into the local economy rather than ending up in the Cayman Islands.

I also tend to think independent businesses really do have to be good to survive.

Unlike their bigger but now struggling competitors, they have nothing to fall back on but their good name.

That’s why it was encouraging to see traders who are part of Independent Harrogate gain positions on the board of Harrogate Business Improvement District recently.

Both these local bodies are dedicated to reviving Harrogate town centre at a time of a worrying number of empty shops.

Independent Harrogate, in particular, has nailed its colours to the mast by adopting the slogan “Quality not Mediocrity.”

I, for one, hope Harrogate BID and Independent Harrogate’s efforts to help the town pay off.It’s not just because I visited real, physical shops to buy all my Christmas presents rather than going online.

What seems clear to me is that if the future of Harrogate town centre and the general retail sector does not lie in chains, by definition, it must lie in local independents.