Business representatives in Harrogate have called for face-to-face meetings to be held to discuss the latest plans for the £10.9 million Station Gateway project.
North Yorkshire County Council announced yesterday that people will be able to hear more about the plans and ask questions at two hour-long online events on October 21 and 28.
People will also have the chance to fill in a consultation survey.
But businesses say such a key decision, which could have a major long-term impact on the town by pedestrianising James Street and reducing traffic on Station Parade to single lane, requires a large scale physical meeting everyone can attend.
Richard Norman, owner of town centre jewellers Fogal and Barnes, said:
“It’s vitally important for the whole town that people can get together and have a proper adult conversation and decide what’s best.
“This scheme is not just about environmental issues — there are challenges around jobs too.”
Mr Norman is also managing director of marketing organisation Brand Yorkshire, which held a conference last week in Harrogate. He said:
“Everyone said it was far better meeting face-to-face. All the online meetings I’ve seen have been too clinical. You can’t read body language.”
“Having an actual meeting is the correct thing to do for such a big issue.
“I can’t tell what impact this will have on my business until I see the full proposal. My concern is they will try to railroad it through, which is why we should have an actual meeting.”
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David Simister, chief executive of Harrogate District Chamber of Commerce, agreed and said it would invite Don Mackenzie, executive member for access at North Yorkshire County Council, to its November meeting to discuss the proposals with businesses.
Mr Simister said:
“It’s important that our elected members hear what businesses have to say about it.”
Project team to meet in Harrogate
Asked to respond to the lack of notice of physical meetings, a North Yorkshire County Council spokesman said there would be opportunities to discuss concerns directly with the project team in a unit in the Victoria Shopping Centre.
“Online events enable as many people as possible to attend and ensure covid safety.
“However, during the consultation there will be opportunities for members of the public and businesses to speak to the project team face-to-face at a dedicated unit within the Victoria Shopping Centre.
“These will take place on Wednesday 27 October, the morning of Friday 29 October, Monday 1 November (for businesses only) and Friday 5 November.
“Businesses in the area will be contacted with details of how to book a slot for 1 November. In addition, the project team will be speaking to businesses at an open chamber of trade event on 8 November.”
New plans yet to be revealed
Cllr Mackenzie said yesterday the council had listened to feedback from previous consultations on the initial plans and “taken that response into account in the further development of the designs”.
But details of the changes are not yet available.
Cllr Mackenzie told the Stray Ferret:
“The exact details of the proposals and designs for all three gateway schemes, which are going forward for public consultation from next Monday, will be published online in the next few days.
The Harrogate scheme is one of three projects worth a combined £42m in Harrogate, Skipton and Selby paid for by the Leeds City Region Transforming Cities Fund, which encourages cycling and walking.
They are being delivered in partnership by the West Yorkshire Combined Authority, North Yorkshire County Council, Harrogate Borough Council, Craven District Council and Selby District Council.
Details of the online consultation, which runs until November 12, will be available from Monday at www.yourvoice.westyorks-ca.gov.uk/northyorkshire
Following this consultation, a final business case will be prepared before approval is sought to deliver the schemes.
It is anticipated that work in Harrogate will begin by mid-2022 and be completed by March 2023.