£3m extra for Harrogate's Gateway project to transform town centre as campaigners raise concern at 'legal issues'
An extra £3 million is to be invested in the Gateway project to transform Harrogate town centre as transport leaders toughen their stance against rival suggestions focused on the A61.
Ever since North Yorkshire County Council’s executive agreed unanimously to move forward with the Harrogate Gateway scheme and draw up detailed plans to reduce Station Parade to one lane, a vociferous campaign has erupted to focus on changes to road traffic on Parliament Street and West Park instead.
But the growing clamour for a feasibility study into the idea of re-introducing two-way traffic along the whole of the A61 through Harrogate town centre for the first time in 50 years was not only rejected again this week but the county council also announced it had secured a major cash boost to carry out the Gateway project.
Writing in his column in this week’s editon of the Harrogate Advertiser, Coun Don Mackenzie said: “The outline business case for the Harrogate Gateway was approved by the West Yorkshire Combined Authority Investment Committee last week and the funding was increased from £7.9m to £11m.
“The progress of the Gateway scheme and the changes it may bring to the A61 southbound through Harrogate town centre have prompted calls for a feasibility study into re-introducing two-way traffic to Parliament Street and West Park.
“Supporters of a study seek a return to pre-1971 traffic management arrangements. I am in full agreement with the county council’s highways engineers to reject this call, certainly for now.”
But supporters of the two-way traffic idea, who have inundated the Harrogate Advertiser with letters, say they cannot understand the county council’s stubborn refusal to conduct a study.
One campaigner, Harrogate lawyer Russell Davidson, is even threatening to mount legal action over the matter.
In the Harrogate Advertiser's letters page this week, he writes: “It is my belief that in refusing the numerous public requests for a detailed A61 study, Coun Mackenzie is quite possibly acting unlawfully.
"I have had a number of people contact me saying that they would be willing to contribute towards a fighting fund to start High Court proceedings against North Yorkshire County Council if Coun Mackenzie continues not to listen and continues to throw unsupportable arguments in the way of commissioning a professional study of the feasibility of southbound traffic using the A61.”
Coun Mackenzie’s case against the A61 idea goes beyond the cost, something he claims would involve £50,000 for the study and £30 milion for the work itself.
He argues it would simply not improve the traffic situation in Harrogate town centre overall.
Coun Mackenzie writes: “Whilst some traffic would be taken away from Cheltenham Parade, Station Parade and York Place, the effect on Parliament Street and West Park would likely be very detrimental with consequences for congestion and air quality.”
Gateway project: How it is funded
North Yorkshire County Council may be driving the Gateway project to transform the streets around Station Parade to boost the economy and cut carbon emissions in Harrogate town centre but it’s far from a lone operator in the enterprise.
The increase in funding from £7.9m to £11m - which was announced this week to pay for Gateway - was granted by the West Yorkshire Combined Authority, which was set up by national Government to bring together local councils in the Leeds City Region area, as well as elsewhere, to support local economies.
But it is funded by the Transforming Cities Fund (TCF), a major programme of investment that aims to deliver transformational, new transport infrastructure set up by - and funded to the tune of a £2.45 billion nationally - by the Government.
Very similar Gateway schemes for other towns in North Yorkshire - Selby and Skipton - are set to go ahead, too.
All have been put to lengthy public consultations to get to this point showing majority support for greener policies among those who bothered to respond.
For more information go to: www.westyorks-ca.gov.uk and www.northyorks.gov.uk
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