Former England and Leeds United star turned businessman, Danny Mills, has called for an urgent rethink on a decision to temporarily pedestrianise James Street in Harrogate.
Mr Mills, who has lived in Harrogate for 20 years and owns four properties on the street, described the decision as “very damaging” and said businesses need all the help they can get.
Speaking to the Stray Ferret, Mr Mills said the decision would affect businesses which have already been through enough during the coronavirus pandemic.
It comes as the county council lent its support for a temporary pedestrianisation of the street, which could be in place as early as next month.
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The borough council, which put the request in for the closure, said the move was needed to help “safety and social distancing measures” and that it would benefit shoppers and businesses.
But Mr Mills, who owns buildings at Kuoni Travel and Ecco Footwear among others, said the decision would only make matters worse for shops and landlords.
“We have had to take a hit already and I feel we have done our bit and it’s bizarre that such a decision would be made without speaking to the businesses it affects.
“All the businesses are struggling to get footfall through the doors and I think the parking restrictions make it look a little bit unsightly at the moment.
“There are so many potential advertising opportunities because of the traffic is going through the street. It would be very, very damaging.”
As part of his opposition to the plan, the former England defender has written to both Cllr Carl Les, leader of North Yorkshire County Council, and Cllr Richard Cooper, leader of Harrogate Borough Council, urging them to reconsider the decision.
He said those who own property on the street want the best for the town and want to see Harrogate succeed.
“The last thing that the council needs is for shops to close.
“People come to Betty’s and to see the Stray and if that means that shops are boarded up then that’s not good for the town.”
Mr Mills said he has had no contact from either council over the measure. But, he added that it was not too late for council bosses to change their minds and speak with those affected.
Mr Mills said:
“The most important thing is to open dialogue with business and talk with landlords. We all want want is best for Harrogate.
“The council has to have a rethink and a consultation process. We are not doing this to be spiteful, we are doing this for the town. I do not want a town where shops are closing.”
Meanwhile, Nick Hubbert, general manager at department store Hoopers, has also written a strongly worded letter to borough council leader, Cllr Cooper, regarding pedestrianisation.
Mr Hubbert told the Stray Ferret that he does not believe that the temporary pedestrianisation of James Street will help businesses and said he based that on years of experience:
He added that he is not against pedestrianisation long term but he does not think that the middle of a pandemic is the right time to change things.