The Harrogate Gateway Project is an example of a mismanaged project, without clearly defined objectives.
Starting a project with a pot of money means that the project will likely work it’s way to spend that money, when what is needed is a clear understanding of the requirements of the project – or in simple terms, what it is trying to do.
If the £11 million is seen as the “levelling up” money from central government, it comes with significant terms and conditions in how it can be used. True levelling up would give a level of local control as to how the money should be spent. Harrogate is being told, here’s a large sum of money, and here’s how we believe it will be best spent for the town.
The project has been pitched as creating a better welcome to those travelling to Harrogate via rail or bus. It also part of the greater aspiration to link Otley road, via Beech Grove and Victoria Avenue – that is also another project that doesn’t have clearly defined objectives.
There are consultations that genuinely listen to the public, and there are also consultations that are just part of a jumping through a hoop to get the money. The consultation that was put to the public previously was fairly well sawn-up, so there was little room for true feedback from the public. It’s worth noting that the business case isn’t being submitted to the public, it is only being used as means to secure money. Surely, if the public is to make an informed decision, it should be aware of what the business case is for the project ?
The Gateway Project is around a specific section of Harrogate, and provides little wider benefit to the town.
As with all changes like this, the argument or hammer, is then used around the environment. But if a main reason for this project is to encourage non-car travel, then the town needs a better bus service, that’s cheaper tickets and more routes. That will only come from policy changes from the council, and true competition. But that overall would lead to more people using buses, and more income for any bus operators. But the question is does the £11 million really change that area of Harrogate to make it more appealing to not use a car ?
So to say, is the Gateway Project destined for failure, the reality is that it has already failed due to poor project management and politics.
North Yorkshire County Council has issued the following statement – a media note is that this update wasn’t proactively sent out to all the media outlets, they did provide information earlier to one channel.
Karl Battersby has previously personally intervened to ensure that the media is not involved with changes such as this. As a very recent example, he ensured that the press was excluded from a stakeholder meeting on the Otley Road cycle way. Following our complaints, the offer of media interviews was also withdrawn, and to other channels.
Karl Battersby, corporate director of business and environmental services, said:
There are three schemes in total being progressed, in Harrogate, Selby and Skipton, with a total value of £42m. The £11m Harrogate scheme aims to transform the area around Harrogate railway station and support a shift towards more sustainable travel, such as walking, cycling and using public transport.
We received significant feedback as part of the two consultation exercises carried out thus far, and we are grateful that local residents and businesses have engaged with this project. While there has been no formal legal challenge in response to issues raised regarding the consultation last autumn, we acknowledge that the impact of the changes on traffic levels and traffic flows were key issues that were raised as part of the consultation.
We intend to provide further information on those aspects as well as consulting on the formal traffic regulation orders, which would be required to carry out the changes on James Street and Station Parade.
The results of the consultation will be fully considered before a final decision is made on whether to submit the business case to the West Yorkshire Combined Authority to secure the funding.
Subject to consideration of the outcome of the consultation, work could begin during the coming winter with completion in winter 2023/24.
Any start date will be subject to feedback from the forthcoming consultation and submission of the business case to the West Yorkshire Combined Authority to secure the funding. However, we would ensure that work would avoid the Christmas period, and before work began we would develop a construction management plan, which we would share with businesses.