Station Parade
Station Parade

North Yorkshire Council is trying to push through a version of Harrogate Station Gateway stripped of its cycling elements and focused on private motor vehicles.

Executive Member for Transport Keane Duncan told a local paper that reallocating space from motor vehicles to cycle tracks on Station Parade was no longer part of the council’s plans. He wants to see the ‘more controversial elements’ of the scheme removed.

He told the paper:

‘The proposal to reduce Station Parade to a single lane has been the most divisive element. To be successful, we would need Station Parade to remain as two lanes’.

cllr keane duncan

Retaining the car-dominated status quo may be North Yorkshire’s definition of ‘successful’ but it is not ours.

The council claims it is trying to produce:

‘a high quality pedestrian-focused public realm scheme, with improved access into the bus station, and better traffic flow through coordinated signal timings’.

north yorkshire’s description of its harrogate station gateway focused on private motor vehicle

1) The Status Quo is Divisive

Yet again Concillor Keane Duncan is in the local press explaining why North Yorkshire is abandoning the active travel elements of its own scheme, instead of supporting them.

He says that these active travel proposals are ‘divisive’.

There was opposition from opponents of cycling – people who seem themselves primarily as drivers, and fight tooth and nail against giving up an inch of road space devoted to private cars.

What Councillor Duncan is missing is the fact that the status quo is divisive.

Why should people who get around town by bike be put in physical danger? Why should others who would like to get around town by bike – including children, who are not allowed to drive – be put off cycling at all?

2) Vision and Determination

We need an Executive with a vision for a cycle network in Harrogate, and the determination to implement it.

We see Leeds City Council getting on with it, and the Executive making the case for their own active travel projects.

At York Station Gateway, there was a conflict between parked cars and wider pavements/cycle tracks; the Council Executive showed the determination needed to make the right decision and prioritise active travel.

It is dispiriting that time and again North Yorkshire Executive side with the naysayers, and explain why nothing can be done for active travel. Motor vehicles are prioritised every time.

3) North Yorkshire Stripping Cycling out of its Schemes is Becoming a Pattern

Stripping the cycling elements out of its schemes is becoming a pattern for North Yorkshire Council.

We saw it on Otley Road; it appears to be happening on ATF2 Victoria Avenue; and now Harrogate Station Gateway. It is deeply worrying, and the council must get the message that it is not acceptable.

We know that a percentage of Harrogate’s population is hostile to bicycles, and opposes all cycling schemes.

The right response from the council is to stand up to them and deliver excellent cycling schemes. When people see that they work, there will be huge support for them.

Unfortunately, so far the council’s response has been to give in to the objectors and opponents.

4) The Council’s Claims about the ‘Pedestrian Realm’

The council’s words about a ‘pedestrian-focused public realm’ are misleading, and a smokescreen for a car-focused scheme.

There are already large areas dedicated to pedestrians on Station Parade and at Station Square. When you’re on foot, you don’t have to share space with motor vehicles. No one avoids Station Parade on foot because of fear of motor vehicles.

That is not true of cycling. There is no dedicated space for cycling, and fear of motor vehicles puts most people off using it by bike.

The most important active travel element of the Station Gateway scheme was cycle tracks, and these are being removed from the plans.

What would pedestrians get from the revised scheme?

Is more space be allocated to pedestrians? No.

Are pedestrians getting more priority at crossings? No, because the council specifically states that traffic light timings will be optimised for drivers. This almost certainly means longer waits for pedestrians.

The best thing you could do for pedestrians is reduce the space allocated to motor vehicles, and the volume and speed of traffic. Then the area would be calmer and quieter, and more likely to persuade people to linger.

This will not happen with North Yorkshire’s revised Station Gateway.

Access to the bus station could be better, but that could be done anyway – it doesn’t need an £11 million ‘transforming cities’ scheme for a few tweaks.

All in all, pedestrians would get very little except different paving stones.

5) Prettifying the Status Quo

Summary Principle 7 of Cycle Infrastructure Design
Summary Principle 7 of Cycle Infrastructure Design

TCF funding comes ultimately from the Department for Transport.

Cycle Infrastructure Design LTN 1/20 makes clear that cosmetic interventions with few or no benefits for cycling or walking will not be funded from any cycling or walking budget.

LTN 1/20 describes such cosmetic schemes as being intended to ‘prettify the status quo’.

That is what North Yorkshire are now proposing – new paving for Station Square and brighter lights in One Arch, but no change to the car-dominated status quo.

This revised scheme, which is not transformative in any way, should not be paid for by the Transforming Cities Fund (TCF).

6) The Purpose of the Funding

Objectives of TCF according to the 2019 bid
Objectives of TCF according to the 2019 bid

The purpose of TCF money is to improve public transport and active travel options, and take car trips off the road.

North Yorkshire Council is now proposing to misuse the money to prioritise private motor vehicles, with a few warm words about a pedestrian-focused public realm as cover.

Paragraph from the 2019 TCF bid letter
Paragraph from the 2019 TCF bid letter

The bid letter signed by North Yorkshire Council Leader Carl Les also stated that TCF was intended to tackle inequality.

Now Harrogate Station Gateway is to be designed for the richest and most privileged in society.

7) Failure to Stand Up to Legal Action by Hornbeam Park Developments Ltd

Hornbeam Park Developments Ltd started a judicial review against North Yorkshire’s decision to proceed with Harrogate Station Gateway, claiming procedural irregularities.

Council Leader Carl Les did not want to spend money standing up to the legal challenge. North Yorkshire therefore revoked its decision to proceed with the scheme.

Because the council would not stand up to the legal challenge, it is left in the position of designing a scheme to the specific demands of a single private company.

This is wrong.

The council should be making transport policy based on the public interest and its own goals, including decarbonisation and tackling inequality.

Instead the council is left tailoring its scheme to the specific demands of a single private company.

8) Routemap to Carbon Negative

Transport ambitions, Routemap to Carbon Negative
Transport ambitions, Routemap to Carbon Negative

The council knows what it needs to do to decarbonise transport – reduce trips by private car and increase walking and cycling.

Harrogate Station Gateway was a great opportunity to make a start on that – a great opportunity that is being missed.

If it is to have a 50-50 chance of staying under 1.5C of warming, the world’s remaining carbon budget is 250 billion tonnes of CO2e. In 2022, emissions reached a record high of 40 billion tonnes.

If emissions stay at 2022 levels, the remaining carbon budget will be used up by 2029.

This means very significant action is needed to reduce emissions this decade, starting now.

Responsibility on those in Power

This carbon budget is worldwide, not just a North Yorkshire matter, but we have to play our part locally. Everyone needs to understand our dire predicament and take responsibility. This is especially true of those in positions of power.

This includes the private company that has derailed the excellent active travel elements of the scheme, and helped make it all about private motor vehicles.

It includes the Harrogate & Knaresborough Area Councillors who supported the scheme in May, then changed their minds by July.

It includes the local MP, who supported Harrogate Station Gateway in June then called it a ‘dead scheme’ in August.

And it includes North Yorkshire Council who are content to put warm words about decarbonisation into their Climate Change Strategy, then do nothing about it.

North Yorkshire Tries to Push Through Version of Harrogate Station Gateway Focused on Private Motor Vehicles

2 thoughts on “North Yorkshire Tries to Push Through Version of Harrogate Station Gateway Focused on Private Motor Vehicles

  • 10 November 2023 at 4:39 pm

    Excellent synopsis of a woeful situation. In addition I understood active travel as being core to dealing with Harrogate’s congestion issue – I guess the results of this survey are now being ignored?

    • 10 November 2023 at 4:53 pm

      It is woeful, as usual with North Yorkshire.

      Let’s hope they can come up with a good design in the next few days or weeks, but their track record does not inspire confidence.

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