There can be few people, wherever they are on this planet, who remain unaware of the problem of climate change and the steps being taken to correct it and minimise further damage. Harrogate, like the rest of the UK, needs to try its best to achieve this.
However, after a worldwide pandemic when the towns’ businesses are already fragile, is this the time to experiment and implement plans, which might hinder the towns revival? Or is a time to listen to the residents and businesses, who need support and look at schemes, which work for the majority not the minority?
In 2019 NYCC did a congestion survey, where unsurprisingly, 84% of people agreed that Harrogate & Knaresborough were congested. The increase in population and the increase in houses being built with a national average of 1.2 cars per household ( and more likely 2 in Harrogate) will inevitably increase congestion.
Harrogate has a population of 75,000 and Harrogate District 157,000 people, 15,500 people completed the survey. Measures with the strongest support included improving cycling and walking infrastructure (77%), introducing park and ride facilities (71%), encouraging smarter travel choices and behaviour change (75%) and the introduction of bus lanes and priority for buses at junctions (59%).
However, few of these are yet to be implemented and schemes like ‘park & ride’ we are told, will not be implemented as it is currently quicker to drive into town. The only plans we have seen have not addressed all the concerns but have only focused on eliminating the motor vehicle in the town centre, with the introduction of pedestrianisation and cycle lanes. With a new movement toward making Harrogate one of the first net carbon zones.
Is this what the people signing the survey asked for? Is a totally car free Harrogate the answer? Will a net carbon zone Harrogate come at the loss of so much else in our town? Will these initiatives actually work or are they unrealistic ideologies?
Yes, by reducing congestion we reduce carbon emissions from standing traffic and increased journey time but we can see that a lot of the current schemes & experiments actually increase congestion, by pushing traffic onto already congested roads, rather than ease it.
There are many alternative initiatives, which the council should consider before making these drastic and potentially detrimental plans. We urge NYCC & HBC to explore these and engage with the residents and businesses before altering Harrogate as we know it.
Government has already announced forthcoming changes including bringing forward the phase-out date for the sale of new petrol and diesel cars and vans to 2030. This, and other legislation, is to support greater uptake of zero-emission vehicles for greener car journeys.
Until we are all using ‘green’ vehicles we are, quite rightly being encouraged to minimise car use.
Please see some other ideas which address the environmental issues and air quality and some ideas & initiatives which will help bring Harrogate back to life. Just one concept would be to restore the existing tired and run down pedestrianised roads (before creating new ones) with more vision, like the Victoria Quarter in Leeds, to encourage upmarket retailers & hospitality and the shoppers will follow!