Local Liberal Democrats could determine fate of £11.2m Harrogate Station Gateway
Jan 26, 2023
The Harrogate Station Gateway scheme.
How Station Parade would look.

A decision on whether to proceed with the £11.2 million Harrogate Station Gateway could depend on a Liberal Democrat-controlled committee of councillors.

The gateway scheme, which would radically transform the area opposite Harrogate train station, has proved highly divisive and controversial.

It would see James Street partly pedestrianised and a section of Station Parade reduced to single lane traffic to make way for cycle lanes.

Funding for the scheme was secured in March 2020 but nearly three years later, and despite three consultations, North Yorkshire County Council has yet to make a final decision on whether to proceed.

station gateway james street

Part of James Street would be pedestrianised.

The council’s Conservative-controlled executive has now said the scheme will come before its Harrogate and Knaresborough area constituency committee before a final decision is made. Eight of the committee’s 14 members are Liberal Democrats.

The committee is currently only an advisory body but Cllr Keane Duncan, the executive member for highways and transportation at the council, suggested its views will be crucial. He said:

“It would be very difficult for us to proceed with the scheme if local elected councillors were opposed.

“The people of Harrogate and Knaresborough have elected councillors. The majority of those are not Conservative, they are of a different political persuasion to the executive. We want to listen to what those councillors say.”

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Asked whether the Conservatives had passed the buck on such a political hot potato, Cllr Duncan replied:

“It is a hot potato but with great power comes great responsibility. Local people in Harrogate and Knaresborough have elected their councillors and we have all stood on a platform to make difficult decisions.

“The executive of the county council believes very strongly in localism. We want to ask local councillors for their views and we will pay very due attention to their views. That’s the right thing to do.”

Cllr Keane Duncan, executive councillor for access at North Yorkshire County Council.

Cllr Keane Duncan in Harrogate

Cllr Duncan, who lives in Ryedale, said he had no vested interest in the scheme, which he inherited when he took up his role in May last year. But he added:

“Having looked at it as an outsider, I feel there are great advantages in terms of improving the pedestrian and cycle links and making this corner of the town centre easier to access and a better place to spend time, so on balance I’m supportive.”

Consultation was ‘never a referendum’

The third consultation revealed once again more people feel negatively than possibly towards the scheme, albeit by a slender margin of 46% to 45%, with nine per cent neutral.

Cllr Duncan said the consultation “was never meant to be a referendum” and there was “significant support” for key elements of the scheme, including changes to the public realm and better walking and cycling infrastructure. He added:

“If you look at the actual figures there were just 17 more negative responses than positive responses. And if you factor in the nine percent neutral responses, actually that’s a long way away from the universal negativity that many people would suggest, because most people are positive or neutral towards it.

“With all that support that’s been expressed by the public, it would be a shame not to bring this project that’s been ongoing for a very long time to a decision point for councillors to be able to make a decision one way or another.”

Cllr Duncan also suggested scrapping the scheme could damage Harrogate and North Yorkshire’s chances of future funding.

“More than £11 million would be spent elsewhere in North Yorkshire or returned to government. I think that would be a great shame for Harrogate but also it would rock government’s confidence in North Yorkshire and that would be a great shame for Harrogate and the county.”

Cllr Keane Duncan will talk about other Harrogate transport issues, such as the A59 Kex Gill realignment, the proposed park and ride and the threat to bus services in an interview on Saturday.