Lib Dems call on Keane Duncan to resign over Harrogate Station Gateway
Aug 22, 2023
Cllr Keane Duncan, executive councillor for access at North Yorkshire County Council.
Keane Duncan in Harrogate

Liberal Democrats councillors have called on North Yorkshire Council’s Conservative transport leader Keane Duncan to resign after the council pressed pause on the £11.2m Harrogate Station Gateway project.

Last week, the council said it had “rescinded the decision to proceed” with the controversial active travel proposals, which have been years in the works, due to a legal challenge.

In a statement, the council said it would not be proceeding at the moment to avoid “further costs and delays” after a judicial review was launched by Hornbeam Park Developments over the way the council consulted residents and businesses about the scheme.

The company, owned by businessman Chris Bentley, is a major commercial landlord in Harrogate and owns properties on James Street, which would be part-pedestrianised under the proposals.

The future of the Station Gateway is now in doubt with Harrogate and Knaresborough’s Conservative MP Andrew Jones describing it as a “timed-out dead scheme”.

James Street traffic order

The traffic order for James Street to be part-pedestrianised.

In an email to Cllr Duncan that has been shared with the Local Democracy Reporting Service, the Lib Dems said he should now resign from the council’s Tory-run executive after “failing to deliver” for Harrogate.

Cllr Duncan has been selected by the Conservatives as its candidate for the York and North Yorkshire mayoral election next year.

The letter says:

“At an executive meeting in July, you reaffirmed the commitment of yourself and your colleagues to the gateway project. You confirmed your ‘focus was delivering this landmark £11million investment into Harrogate.’

“You have failed to do so. Harrogate deserves better from the lead member for highways and transportation. You had the opportunity to develop and deliver a bold and innovative comprehensive integrated transport plan for Harrogate but you have failed.

“There is a very real concern that as a result of your mismanagement the potential investment will be lost.

“Harrogate needs meaningful improvements that will boost travel opportunities for local residents, business and visitors. This cannot happen without well managed and significant investment. It seems you are not capable of delivering this.”

The Lib Dems initially backed the scheme at a meeting in May, before withdrawing their support just a month later.

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‘Petty point scoring’

In response to their email, Cllr Duncan accused the party of playing political games.
He told the Local Democracy Reporting Service:

“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.”