Harrogate Gateway report exposes divide in public opinion over town centre changes
Fears over business and traffic congestion remain at the heart of the debate over the £11 million Gateway project in Harrogate, a major report has revealed.
While detailed analysis of the recent public consultation in Harrogate shows that more people support new measures to boost public transport, walking and cycling in the town centre than oppose them, a minority continue to express concern over key aspects of the proposals which are being funded by the Government’s Transforming Cities Fund.
Anxious to keep up momentum on the Gateway project, Coun Don Mackenzie, the county council’s executive member for transport, says the report - which is a deeper analysis of the consultation process carried out by NYCC - shows there is still broad backing for change in Harrogate town centre.
Coun Mackenzie said: “Many respondents clearly recognise the transformative proposals for Station Parade and the targeted positive effects on this part of town. I now look forward to more detailed designs for this project.”
Carried out over four weeks between Wednesday, February, 24, 2021 and Wednesday, March 24, 2021, the new report into the consultation has been drawn up by the West Yorkshire Combined Authority which is working with the Government to bring sustainable transport measures cross the region in a bid to improve town centres and tackle climate change.
The public were given the chance to view the different Gateway options and voice their opinions online.
Gateway report three key points: What public said about proposals on changing Harrogate town centre
During the four-week engagement period a total of 7,491 visits were made by 5,217 visitors to the Your Voice engagement hub online with 1,101 surveys completed.
1. One of the most controversial choices to be made, focused on reducing car traffic on Station Parade itself.
The report says 49.1% chose the one-lane traffic option, 26.7% chose the two-lane option, and 24.2% chose neither of these options.
For those who chose neither of the options, the highest motivating factors were concerns over traffic flow and congestion with 190 such comments.
Other negative comments included 165 people saying both options would be bad for business and residents.
In addition 160 said neither option would persuade fewer people to travel by car and that, as a result, the Gateway proposals would not improve the air quality on Station Parade.
2. When it came to safe cycling facilities on East Parade and Bower Road, 39.4% of respondents felt very positive about the proposals, 18.7% felt positive, 10.2% felt negative, 19.1% felt very negative while 12.1% remained neutral.
3. When considering the three options for James Street, 45.3% would prefer full time pedestrianisation, 16.6% would prefer some part-time pedestrianisation with traffic restrictions, 32% would prefer motor vehicle access to be retained at all times and 6% would not choose any of the options presented
Gateway opponents question validity of consultation
Gateway’s doubters complain loudly about democracy ‘being missing’ in the process.
They argue that what they describe as the small number of responses can be attributed in part to the poor timing and holding the consultation during lockdown.
They say requests for an extension to the Gateway consultation were ignored by the county council.
And they question the validity of the results.
Gateway results will feed into action, says North Yorkshire County Council
But the project’s leaders at North Yorkshire County Council say the report will feed into which measures will end up being introduced in terms of road changes, new cycle lanes and restrictions on cars.
Coun Mackenzie said: “The purpose of the consultation was to involve users and stakeholders in the process to help develop and improve the proposals. Final design decisions have not yet been made, and public feedback and input will help to shape the final scheme which will be consulted on later in 2021.”
Gateway consultation factfile: Who actually took part
Among the complaints raised in the Harrogate Advertiser’s letters pages recently about the Gateway project, which is seeing similar proposals in other towns in North Yorkshire, is that the consultation process has been based on limited information.
The new report into its results shows the Harrogate consultation attracted the highest level of response from local residents of them all with 1,101 surveys completed compared to 234 for Selby and 193 for Skipton.
We even know what sort of people in Harrogate respondded to the Gateway public consultation earlier this year.
980 respondents said they live in Harrogate, 386 said they work here, 279 said they visit for leisure or social activities.
709 said they travel to and from Harrogate town centre by car/van, 704 walk, 278 cycle and 264 go by bus.
55% of the respondents identified as male and 41% female.
45-64-year-olds made up 44% of the respondents, with 65+ year-olds (24%) and 25-44 year-olds (22%).
16 – 24-year-olds made up just 4%.
Gateway project: What it aims to achieve
The roots of North Yorkshire’s Gateway plans for changing Harrogate town centre lie in the results of 2019’s Harrogate Congestion Study when a clear majority of the public who responded asked for a future based on more sustainable transport.
Although the proposals offer different options on the types of changes drivers, cyclists and pedestrians will face, the aims of the Gateway project are clear.
Improve transport connections to the town centre and public transport stations, giving people better access to jobs, education, healthcare and leisure facilities;
Reduce carbon emissions associated with transport to help address climate change;
Support the regeneration of the Station Parade area;
Improv walking and cycling links to Harrogate bus and railway stations and the town centre;
Increase the number of people traveling to/from Harrogate Station and in and around Harrogate town centre by environmentally friendly transport (bus, on foot and by bike).
Enhance the sense of place within the town centre.
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