North Yorkshire Council (NYC) has announced that it is rescinding its executive decision to proceed with the Harrogate gateway scheme in the face of a further legal challenge to the plans.
This means that yet another consultation would have to take place before the scheme can proceed. This would take many months, or longer, to complete.
The latest problems follow hot on the heels of a majority of Liberal Democrat councillors supporting the scheme only to flip-flop a month later.
There are parts of the scheme I think that are welcome – the emphasis on sustainable transport, tidying up the area as you come out of the bus and train stations, the improvement of the public realm, changing the crossing arrangements on Lower Station Parade, improving the shabby one arch and so on.
There are elements of concern too such as the narrowing of Station Parade for a short stretch outside the bus station and how deliveries to businesses will work and I have consistently asked the council to address these concerns. It is clear that significant numbers have not been reassured by the explanations that have been given.
Of course, consistent political leadership is critical when managing major investment and the majority group on the Harrogate and Knaresborough Area Committee has been unable to provide that. Whether or not one supports the gateway project in total, in part or not at all such weak local leadership presents difficulty when we look to attracting future investment.
But the key consideration is that the latest challenge means that the deadline to spend the cash allocated to this area is certain to expire. It is time therefore to stop spending public money trying to drag what is effectively a timed-out dead scheme – the good parts regrettably and the bad too – over the line.
The council must start talking to Government about retaining the funding and re-positioning it to other projects in Harrogate and Knaresborough. I am happy to help with that process.