The loss of the Harrogate Gateway Scheme would have represented a significant Highways change to the town centre, around the bus, and railway station.
There questions that remain though, including:
- Did Harrogate want this scheme ?
- Was the scheme beneficial or detrimental to Harrogate ?
But to cut to the chase, I don’t think there is a definitive answer to either of those questions, and that demonstrates the bigger problem, and why the scheme ended up where it did.
Did Harrogate want the scheme ?
A consultation result on the Harrogate Gateway published in January 2023:
- 46% of the responses were negative
- 45% of the responses were positive
- 9% of the responses were neutral
So you could view those statistics as 55% were not supportive of the scheme. But the consultation was a voluntary consultation, meaning that people needed to be motivated in some way to want to take part. You could of course view that 46% didn’t want it, so you can riddle those statistics each way.
A number of businesses, and groups that represent only a small proportion of business, and people, opposed the scheme. These are groups that work for the benefit of individuals with those groups, rather than with a wider view of Harrogate. The Harrogate town centre is there for all, of course, and is not just there for businesses.
It’s also true that many were simply not that interested in this scheme – bricks and tarmac are often not the most exciting.
Was the Scheme beneficial or detrimental to Harrogate ?
This is the more difficult question to answer. The scheme had an ill-defined scope, leaving it open to criticism, and being picked apart. If the benefits had been stated more clearly then people could have (but not necessarily) got on board with it, rather than reverting to negatives.
The overall sell of the scheme was poor, and there were political element with the Liberal Democrats using it for positioning. The scheme did demonstrate that the Area Constituency Committee/ the forum of the local councillors now carries very little weight or influence.
On the Area Constituency, you would have expected them to have worked to have a chair around the table for scheme.
Ultimately the scheme was stopped on the basis of a legal challenge around the process that County Council had adopted. That of course doesn’t then mean the scheme wasn’t right for Harrogate. What it means is that County Council got the process wrong, leaving them open to challenge, and once challenged they would have taken a view around the costs and likelihood to win.
Harrogate Liberal Democrats have called for Keane Duncan to leave. We asked for a comment back from him, and he requested we publish his response in full.
Keane Duncan, Executive Member for Highways and Transportation, Road Safety and Cycling/Active Travel Champion, said:
I have been consistent throughout that I would take the Gateway project forward only if a majority of local councillors supported it.
The Liberal Democrats’ decision to vote in support the Gateway then withdraw their backing just weeks later can represent nothing other than blatant political game playing.
Their failure to stick by their own decision undermines not only this much-needed £11m investment but future investment too. Such weak and inconsistent leadership lets down the people of Harrogate.
As the Liberal Democrats play games with the Gateway, I remain focussed on working towards solutions and securing investment for Harrogate.
If the Liberal Democrats wish to join me in that then I will welcome them, but the evidence so far shows that they are more interested in petty point scoring.
Harrogate has lost out on a large budget spend, that could well have been beneficial to the town – that is a real shame.
Council never claimed the scheme was perfect, but it does seem to have been greeted with overwhelming negativity – Harrogate nimbyism.
Although there was consultation after consultation, it seems to have missed something. That could be in-part the Council pushing the scheme to quickly, and Harrogate (businesses, people and councillors) not engaging earlier enough, and in a big enough way to help influence the scheme in the right way.
It is worrying that a big-money developer comes in and pushes for a judicial review – there is something that doesn’t sit right for the town around that.
It does seem that with schemes like this, and others like the trial scheme around the Oatlands Junior School, and the trial 20mph zones around schools in the town, that council needs to have a clearer set of objectives, otherwise it all becomes subjective, or an argument.