The £11.2m scheme’s most controversial aspects, such as the single-lane proposals for Station Parade and the part-pedestrianisation of James Street, are set to be dropped for it to proceed and to avoid legal peril for the council.
The plans were thrown into doubt over the summer when Harrogate-based property firm Hornbeam Park Developments, which owns several commercial properties on James Street, issued a legal challenge.
Conservative executive member for transport Keane Duncan and the Liberal Democrats have had a turbulent relationship when it comes to the Station Gateway.
In July, Cllr Duncan accused the Lib Dems of “playing politics” after it withdrew support. Then in August, the party called on him to resign due to his handling of the project.
But at a meeting in Northallerton last week, Cllr Duncan made a plea for unity ahead of a final decision on whether the project will move forward.
This will be made by the council’s ruling Conservative executive so does not require cross-party support to get it over the line but Cllr Duncan said he still hopes it can be backed by councillors in the town.
“My sincere hope is that Conservative and Liberal Democrat councillors can unite behind a deliverable plan that secures £11m of investment for Harrogate. This is important for Harrogate and it’s important for North Yorkshire too.”
Funding for the Station Gateway is coming from the government’s Transforming Cities Fund but Cllr Duncan warned that if it doesn’t proceed and money has to be handed back to Whitehall it could risk future funding bids for the whole county.
“We should not return hard-fought money to government. This would be immensely damaging to the reputation of this council and future investment for our county. I am committed to working with Harrogate and Knaresborough colleagues to devise a proposal that commands clear public and business support.”
In recent weeks, meetings have taken place between council officers working on the scheme and local councillors, including a walk around the proposed Station Gateway area where councillors of all parties have made suggestions.
Chris Aldred, Liberal Democrat councillor for High Harrogate & Kingsley, told the Local Democracy Reporting Service that the party accepts changes must be made to the scheme, which he blamed on “complete incompetence” by Cllr Duncan and the Conservatives.
“While further pedestrianisation of some areas of Harrogate town centre and much-needed improved connectivity for cyclists remain in our long term vision for the town, it is unfortunate that these must remain, in the main, long term aspirations, which can’t now happen within this scheme.
“However we do feel that some of the real positive elements of the scheme remain achievable within the timescale, such as a dedicated bus lane improving access to the bus station, improvements of the public realm in Station Square and One Arch, improved covered cycling storage and better connectivity of traffic lights and crossings for pedestrians and vehicles.
“The Lib Dem group regrets that the engagement with local residents and the town centre business community, as well as local councillors, which we called for back in May, has only just started to happen now. But we look forward to more of it in the next few weeks and hope to play our part in delivering these much needed improvements within the town centre.”
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