Lib Dems withdraw support for Harrogate’s Station Gateway
Jul 4, 2023

The Liberal Democrats have withdrawn their support for the Station Gateway proposal in central Harrogate.

The move was announced by Cllr Chris Aldred at North Yorkshire Council’s executive today, after several of the party members voted in favour of the scheme in May.

He said their support had been on condition that North Yorkshire Council engaged in a meaningful way with residents, businesses and the Harrogate and Knaresborough Area Constituency Committee over the plans.

Cllr Aldred, who represents High Harrogate and Kingsley division, said:

“It is with disappointment that I am speaking here today. Disappointment at the failure of this executive to engage with business and residents in a meaningful way.

“Disappointment at the failure of this executive to respect the recommendations of Harrogate’s democratically elected Councillors on Harrogate and Knaresborough Area Committee.

“And disappointment that those most closely affected are left feeling ignored, with their genuine concerns sidelined.”

The issue had already split the party, with area constituency committee chairman Cllr Pat Marsh voting against the plans, while several other Lib Dems supported them.

Cllr Marsh then went to a meeting of the executive to ask its members to drop the proposal, despite her committee having voted to ask the executive to proceed.

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Cllr Aldred said the executive had failed to meet a deadline of June 30 to set up a working group of the area constituency committee and to arrange face-to-face meetings with concerned residents and businesses.

Calling for more engagement with the local councillors over the Station Gateway plans, he added:

“Liberal Democrat members will continue to monitor every aspect of this scheme, on behalf of our residents and hold the executive to account for every pound of public money spent on it.

“But we simply can not support a scheme that is being driven by an administration determined to ignore residents, businesses and councillors alike – an administration who constantly fall short of what is expected.

“This administration seems more focused on clinging to power and has prioritised its own political backroom conversations aimed at maintaining a majority in the chamber, above getting a grip on this controversial issue.

“We have given you enough opportunities to demonstrate you are sincere and competent. Sadly, you have clearly demonstrated that you are neither.”

The declaration prompted a row between the party’s councillors from across the Harrogate area and the ruling Conservatives on the executive.

In response, Cllr Keane Duncan, the Conservative executive councillor for highways, described the move as “playing politics” with the gateway scheme.

He accused Cllr Aldred of “rowing back” on his support to achieve “harmony within the Liberal Democrats” – which Cllr Aldred denied.

Cllr Duncan said:

“We are drawing up an engagement plan, that will determine who we are going to speak to in terms of businesses and residents throughout the construction period.

“A decision has been taken at this executive to support the gateway scheme. We are delivering on the support that you gave and that the majority of your colleagues gave.

“We will engage and we will ensure that we deliver this plan. We are very clear that the Conservative group on this council and this executive supports the gateway. The Liberal Democrats have now been clear that you do not.

“We will see in the long term how that plays out. I believe we have a fantastic scheme and I believe that this investment should be made in Harrogate for the long term and long lasting benefit of residents.”