Proposals promoted by both Harrogate Borough Council and North Yorkshire County Council will have a disastrous impact on town centre trade, UKIP County Councillor David Simister has warned.
David, who has lived in Harrogate all his life, said the introduction of evening and Sunday parking charges – combined with pedestrianising great swathes of the town centre and narrowing two major thoroughfares will lead to a slump in trade and the closure of shops and businesses.
It would, he added, put in jeopardy many voluntary activities that take place in the numerous churches and church halls centred in the town centre.
Harrogate Borough Council is currently consulting on its town centre masterplan, which recommends the reduction of more than 100 town centre parking spaces.
Whilst next month’s county council Harrogate Area Committee meeting will debate the parking charges proposals, the ultimate decision will be made by the authority’s executive.
County Coun Simister said:
Between them, the district and county councils are doing their best to destroy the unique character of Harrogate town centre. I cannot understand why both authorities think it is in the best interests of Harrogate to go down these routes.
Even though the authors of the town centre masterplan say the majority of visitors to the district arrive by car, and that the vast majority of those who come to shop rely heavily on their car, it is recommending pedestrianising at least three streets, including James Street?
This, coupled with charging people to park in an evening and on Sundays, is sheer madness. Those behind these ill thought out proposals have not the first clue about our town.
Instead of going down this highway to hell, they should look at measures to encourage visitors and shoppers to the town.
Making improvement to favour motorists instead of cyclists and reducing parking charges and making it free on certain days will boost trade.
And it’s not just shoppers who will be affected by charging for parking on Sundays and evenings. It’s going to penalise church goers and those who attend events at churches on both Sundays and week nights.
Whilst the consultation into parking charges is closed, that into the town centre masterplan is still open. If residents don’t voice their concerns then I’m afraid we can say goodbye to the town centre that we know and love.
We have lost a good many independent shops over the last few decades, shops that made Harrogate unique and were a magnet for visitors, and we certainly can’t afford to lose any more.