“Ambitious” plans to change the face of Harrogate town centre have come under fire from a local county councillor and prospective MP for Harrogate & Knaresborough.
UKIP’s David Simister (Bilton and Nidd Gorge) said the blueprints – commissioned by Harrogate Borough Council at a cost of £50,000 – would drive shoppers away from town centre shops and stores.
County Coun Simister also questioned why the local council was focused on just Harrogate town centre and ignored those of Knaresborough and Boroughbridge.
In addition to pedestrianising great swathes of the town centre, the consultants behind the pans were recommending terracing Montpellier Hill, opening a visitor attraction inside Hall Q of the Exhibition centre, a proliferation of outdoor dining venues and a bowling alley!
County Coun Simister said: “The vision presented by the ‘experts’ is certainly eye catching, but is unrealistic and to the determent of shops and shoppers alike.
“Whilst the council is calling on residents for their views, I feel we are being presented with yet another council fait accompli. When I visited the exhibition there was no council or consultants representatives to discuss this with, neither was there information to take away.
“The full report states that whilst two-thirds of those who took part in the survey said improved town centre parking must be a priority, the ‘experts’ vision is to significantly reduce the number of parking spaces.
“Data they have quoted states that those who shop in the town centre are predominantly local with ‘high levels of car dependency’.
“The report fails to address where shoppers will park when countless on-street spaces are lost, because ‘cars make the street scene look untidy!’
“I’m not sure who is behind this extravagant pedestrianisation plan this time round? However, many aspects of these plans are similar to those put forward a few years ago by a developer, who wanted to close Parliament Street to traffic and divert it down Montpellier.”
County Coun Simister added: “In addition to looking at the future of Harrogate town centre, the district council needs to look closely at the shopping centres in the rest of the district.
“The report says Harrogate town centre is in good heart, so why fix what is clearly not broken? In my opinion it needs to look further afield, in particular to Knaresborough, which does not have the benefit of over 250 acres of open space in the immediate area.
“Finally, during times of cuts to local services and reductions in facilities provided, I am curious to know where the funding for yet another major project – which is not essential in any way – is coming from?
“I would urge all those who didn’t get a chance to see the exhibition to look at the proposals on the Harrogate Borough Council website, and submit their views post-haste.”
Details of the plans can be found at: http://www.harrogate.gov.uk/plan/Pages/harrogate-town-centre-strategy.aspx