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“Desperately disappointing”: Cycling group urges council to stand firm after legal challenge puts active travel project “in jeopardy”

The local authority has paused the project after a property firm claimed it would damage businesses in the town, while a Conservative MP called it a “dead scheme”

A cycling group in Harrogate has urged North Yorkshire Council to stand firm after the local authority made the “desperately disappointing” decision to pause progress on an active travel scheme, following a judicial review launched by a commercial developer which claimed that the project would damage businesses in the spa town.

Harrogate District Cycling Action believes the £11.2 million Harrogate Station Gateway project – which the council initially claimed would “transform the area into one where you can walk, cycle, or take public transport more easily” – is now “in jeopardy”, after Hornbeam Park Developments, one of the town’s biggest commercial property companies, instructed planning lawyers Walton and Co to mount a legal challenge against the scheme, the Harrogate Advertiser reports.

The scheme, which aims to introduce a number of bus and cycle lanes, as well as pedestrian zones around Harrogate’s railway and bus stations, has been criticised by local business owners, who claim it will harm footfall in the town centre.

Last week, North Yorkshire Council put a halt to the project after a judicial review was launched, claiming that the council had failed to hold a public inquiry before issuing traffic regulation orders for measures such as the partial pedestrianisation of James Street and reducing traffic on a 300-metre stretch of Station Parade to a single lane.

The legal challenge also claimed that the council did not disclose a climate change appraisal which concluded that motorists would be forced to take longer alternative routes as a result of the new active travel infrastructure and that overall “user emissions are anticipated to increase as a result of the scheme”.

The council later confirmed that it had “quashed” its previous decision, made in May, to proceed with the scheme, citing a desire to “avoid any further exposure to costs and time delays”.

“The possibility of fully defending the legal challenge was considered and to have this mattered determined by the courts,” a spokesperson for council said.

“However, due to the necessity of having a public inquiry before confirming the relevant traffic regulation order, it was considered prudent to accept this ground of challenge.”

Following the Conservative-controlled council’s decision to pause the project, the party’s local MP, Andrew Jones, argued that the local authority should waste no further time and resources trying to keep a “dead” scheme alive.

“The key consideration is that the latest challenge means that the deadline to spend the cash allocated to this area is certain to expire,” Jones said, according to the Stray Ferret. “It is time therefore to stop spending public money trying to drag what is effectively a timed-out dead scheme – the good parts regrettably and the bad too – over the line.

“The council must start talking to government about retaining the funding and re-positioning it to other projects in Harrogate and Knaresborough. I am happy to help with that process.”

The MP continued: “There are parts of the scheme I think that are welcome – the emphasis on sustainable transport, tidying up the area as you come out of the bus and train stations, the improvement of the public realm, changing the crossing arrangements on Lower Station Parade, improving the shabby one arch and so on.

“There are elements of concern too, such as the narrowing of Station Parade for a short stretch outside the bus station and how deliveries to businesses will work and I have consistently asked the council to address these concerns.  It is clear that significant numbers have not been reassured by the explanations that have been given.”

> Cycling group slams "nonsense" proposal that suggests 1.3m 'murder strip' cycle lane against flow of traffic in Harrogate

However, Harrogate District Cycling Action (HDCA) has criticised Jones’ appraisal of the project, which they say “does not make any sense”.

“How can you put the emphasis on sustainable transport if you don’t give it any road space? You can’t,” the campaign group posted today on social media.

In the group’s latest newsletter, titled ‘Harrogate Station Gateway in Jeopardy’, the HDCA appealed to its members to put pressure on the council to ignore their local MP and keep the scheme alive.

“The Harrogate Station Gateway project appears to be at risk,” the group said. “The threat of legal proceedings is not new, and North Yorkshire Council held the third consultation on the project specifically to deal with objections previously raised by the applicant.

“North Yorkshire Council’s reaction to the formal start of proceedings was to rescind their decision to proceed with Gateway. That is very troubling.

“If you would like to help, email Council Leader Carl Les… and Executive Member for Transport Keane Duncan and ask them to maintain their commitment to proceed with the scheme.

“Time is of the essence – they need to hear from local residents quickly.”

In a social media post today, the HDCA added: “It is desperately disappointing to see the council’s commitment to Harrogate Station Gateway wobble. North Yorkshire Council should of course follow the correct procedures, but maintain its commitment to this project, which will improve Harrogate town centre and prioritise active travel and public transport.”

A report setting out the council’s next steps is due to be presented to the local authority’s ruling executive on 19 September.

Ryan joined road.cc in December 2021 and since then has kept the site’s readers and listeners informed and enthralled (well at least occasionally) on news, the live blog, and the road.cc Podcast. After boarding a wrong bus at the world championships and ruining a good pair of jeans at the cyclocross, he now serves as road.cc’s senior news writer. Before his foray into cycling journalism, he wallowed in the equally pitiless world of academia, where he wrote a book about Victorian politics and droned on about cycling and bikes to classes of bored students (while taking every chance he could get to talk about cycling in print or on the radio). He can be found riding his bike very slowly around the narrow, scenic country lanes of Co. Down.

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15 comments

Avatar
Bususer | 10 months ago
3 likes

The owner of Hornbeam Park Developments is Chris Bentley. He owns several properties on James Street, and the Stray Ferret online news site, from where the Andrew Jones quote was taken. He set up the Stray Ferret a few years ago with his wife as editor to quietly help further his various business aims and it has been a regular source of negative articles on the Station Gateway project. 

He took an initial anti Tory stance, possibly because he didn't feel he had enough influence with them and became a funder of the local Lib Dems... who initially supported the Station Gateway project and then got cold feet. Most depressing that this man should be able to stop a project in its tracks like this. 

Avatar
RDaneel | 10 months ago
1 like

And then you watch the latest Not Just Bikes video and get even more irritated/depressed/annoyed at the state of affairs in U.K. towns and cities in this respect. 
https://youtu.be/ztpcWUqVpIg?si=ruxuBT6WI0ThKIGi

Avatar
eburtthebike | 10 months ago
5 likes

“However, due to the necessity of having a public inquiry before confirming the relevant traffic regulation order,...."

Since when has a TRO had to have a public inquiry?  Never is the answer.

Methinks this legal objection was deliberately raised just before the funding deadline ended so that it would fail.

Avatar
chrisonabike replied to eburtthebike | 10 months ago
1 like

eburtthebike wrote:

“However, due to the necessity of having a public inquiry before confirming the relevant traffic regulation order,...."

Since when has a TRO had to have a public inquiry?  Never is the answer.

Quite right.  People confuse "some bodies / people have to be consulted" with "it should be like Swiss democracy where the general public get to vote on everything or maybe even veto stuff we don't like".

(There has to be some consultation and sometimes even a hearing - but who it is with varies, and for experimental orders I think you can do this at a different point e.g. later).

Avatar
Car Delenda Est | 10 months ago
3 likes

That fact that this is even legal makes a mockery of our democracy.

Avatar
eburtthebike replied to Car Delenda Est | 10 months ago
1 like

Demockracy.

Avatar
Joe Dunckley | 10 months ago
11 likes

Hornbeam Park is one of those sprawling car dependent office/leisure/retail parks on the edge of town. How terribly charitable of the company to fund a legal challenge to improvements to their chief rival, the town centre. Yeah, they're definitely doing this because they're worried that improving walking, cycling and public transport in the town centre will "decrease" footfall in the town centre, sure.

Avatar
HarrogateSpa | 10 months ago
11 likes

This was Andrew Jones MP on Harrogate Station Gateway in a letter of 5th June 2023:

'I am pleased it has not stalled or fallen foul of the often inaccurate and vociferous criticism it has received...it is important local authorities can show they can deliver projects and this is a big test for North Yorkshire Council.'

Can this be the same MP who is now calling the scheme "dead"? It really is pathetic.

Avatar
eburtthebike replied to HarrogateSpa | 10 months ago
3 likes

HarrogateSpa wrote:

This was Andrew Jones MP on Harrogate Station Gateway in a letter of 5th June 2023:

'I am pleased it has not stalled or fallen foul of the often inaccurate and vociferous criticism it has received...it is important local authorities can show they can deliver projects and this is a big test for North Yorkshire Council.'

Can this be the same MP who is now calling the scheme "dead"? It really is pathetic.

Welcome to the tories 2023.  Truth means nothing in the face of newspeak.

Avatar
brooksby replied to HarrogateSpa | 10 months ago
2 likes

HarrogateSpa wrote:

This was Andrew Jones MP on Harrogate Station Gateway in a letter of 5th June 2023: ...

C'mon - that was ten weeks ago.  You can't seriously expect him to have the same opinion now - he will have had different focus group results provided to him (edit) and been taken out to dinner by "interested parties / concerned citizens" several times...

Avatar
Accessibility f... | 10 months ago
15 likes

Local businesses and local MP?  Local dinosaurs more like.

The last thing Harrogate needs is more traffic.  It's a lovely town, smothered by motorists.

Avatar
Sriracha replied to Accessibility for all | 10 months ago
12 likes

Sad to see business owners clutching at the millstone they think will save them from drowning. More traffic, yeah, that ought to make the place a magnet for people to come and spend time and money.

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AidanR replied to Sriracha | 10 months ago
11 likes

I find the logic of "if they pedestrianise areas then footfall will be reduced" utterly baffling.

Avatar
David9694 replied to Accessibility for all | 10 months ago
1 like

Peowpeowpeowlasers wrote:

The last thing Harrogate needs is more traffic.  It's a lovely town, smothered by motorists.

it's a long and growing list. 

Avatar
HarrogateSpa | 10 months ago
11 likes

North Yorkshire Council has a long history of bidding for and receiving active travel funding, then doing absolutely nothing with it.

We get endless reports and consultations, but no on-the-ground improvements. Every single time there is a failure of political nerve.

This cannot keep happening again and again.

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