Independent businesses, who are part of Independent Harrogate, say they welcome the results of the Harrogate Informer survey which reflect common sense and the real-life experience of local people and businesses.
Independent Harrogate was formed in 2019 and has nearly 200 members.
A spokesperson for Independent Harrogate said
The results beg the question as to why surveys by our local authorities and MP have instead thrown up startling results such as people welcoming parking increases and that the condition of the town centre is OK.
The reality of the situation is that although our town is still a lovely place to live and work:
- The town centre of Harrogate has declined (mainly because of external factors), and for everyone’s sake it must be regenerated.
- This decline has happened recently and rapidly; perhaps since a number of older surveys were conducted?
- Harrogate town centre is currently very fragile.
- Now is not the time to increase parking charges or expand “car parking management zones to encourage the use of, and to support investment in, alternative modes of transport”
Our local authorities must do nothing which could cause further damage.
Increasing parking charges, extending paid for zones or more pedestrianisation are illogical and will unarguably reduce business activity.
An increase in footfall is vital.
There is empirical evidence that free parking increases business activity – e.g. https://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/newsbysector/retailandconsumer/11743186/Shoppers-flood-back-to-town-centre-after-vandals-smash-up-pay-and-display-machines.html
Disc-parking on the periphery of the town centre, even if in theory within five minutes walking distance, is not creating the necessary ‘churn’.
Harrogate town centre has been a retail jewel in Yorkshire’s crown.
The Harrogate ‘product’ is severely devalued by the state of the town centre and unless this is reversed everyone, including the local authorities, will be adversely affected.
There is NO congestion in the town centre.
There is congestion on roads leading to the town particularly caused by:
- Commuting ‘rush hours’ and school runs.
- Starbeck level-crossing.
- A permanent rash of temporary traffic lights at numerous roadworks
However, traffic volume is mostly acceptable the rest of the time.
There is no connection whatsoever between the abandonment of a relief road and the need to increase parking charges in the town centre. This a complete red herring.
Harrogate Borough Council, North Yorkshire County Council and Harrogate BID Ltd should all understand the common-sense logic and danger to the town of the present situation. They should be working together with all other stakeholders to make access by car to the town centre more convenient and to increase its attractiveness and vibrancy by more free parking.
However not one of these three organisations accepts that this is desirable or has aligned itself with the independent town centre businesses who pay them and work there.
In the longer term, and as part of well-planned developments coupled with more low emission transport, there should be better access to town by walking, bike and public transport. But doing this prematurely now seriously risks killing the, currently, silver-gilt goose that it needs to lay golden eggs once again.
Finally, the local authorities were deeply involved in bringing the UCI to town and either made plans or gave promises which turned out to be flawed and have directly caused substantial and real damage to local businesses.
Whatever they may now say, they owe the local businesses for this and the least they could do is support an element of free parking to the town centre during the pre-Christmas period.