Backing given to forge ahead with schemes to enhance town centres

This story was published 25 January 2022

Unanimous backing given for the transformations of Harrogate, Selby and Skipton town centres.

Harrogate east parade design for improvements.

Ambitious proposals to transform the town centres of Harrogate, Selby and Skipton are moving forward after members of our executive today (25 January) gave their unanimous backing to preparing detailed designs and final business cases for each scheme.

The £42m package of transport improvements is a huge investment in the three towns. It aims to connect more people with the places they want to go by making it easier to walk, cycle and use public transport. By so doing, it aims to bring a vital economic boost.

The schemes are being paid for with money from the government’s Transforming Cities Fund, which is designed to transform gateways to towns and cities across the region by making it easier to walk, cycle and use public transport.

Proposals include:

  • for Harrogate, improved railway and bus station frontages with better access for walking and cycling; improved facilities for walking and cycling in the town centre; and improvements to public spaces
  • for Selby, improved station frontage and links to the town centre, Abbey and bus station; improved walking and cycling links to major redevelopment sites
  • for Skipton, improved access for walking and cycling from the railway station to the bus station; improved railway station frontage and improved access to education and employment sites

The schemes are being delivered by us, Harrogate Borough Council, Selby District Council and Craven District Council in partnership with the West Yorkshire Combined Authority.

Our proposals are set to increase people’s access to jobs, education, healthcare and leisure facilities, as well as improving health and wellbeing by enabling easier active travel and making towns more welcoming places for residents, visitors, businesses and wildlife.

Councillor Don Mackenzie, our Executive Member for Access, said: “This is about making these town centres more accessible and welcoming, and the many benefits that can bring. All three schemes are intended to bring a range of improvements. As well as increasing opportunities for cycling, walking and the use of public transport, they set out to improve the public realm and make the town centres still more attractive to residents and visitors. In turn, these measures will boost the towns’ economic prospects.

“This project is a great example of working together to deliver benefits to residents and businesses. We have listened and responded to feedback from the public consultations and are confident people will be pleased with the results.”

Harrogate business organisations raised concerns about the impact of the proposals on businesses. However, an economic study considered by councillors concluded that there was a strong economic case for the Harrogate Station Gateway scheme.

The study said: “The scheme will support inclusive growth by presenting new opportunities to access jobs, education and training – that will serve to support a sustainable labour force in the district. There is a strong precedent that the scheme will increase footfall and retail performance, increase property/land values and increase business investment.”

These proposals follow the extensive Harrogate and Knaresborough congestion study carried out by us in 2019. More than 15,000 people responded to that consultation, with overwhelming support for developing walking, cycling and public transport provision to help address congestion.

Furthermore, when the individual elements of the scheme were considered in this consultation, there were a number of areas where more responses were positive. Those who responded positively were highly motivated by benefits for walking and cycling, the better use of public space and making the town centre a more attractive place for residents and visitors.

Councillor Phil Ireland, Harrogate Borough Council’s cabinet member for carbon reduction and sustainability, said: “The scheme for Harrogate offers a fantastic opportunity to secure the largest investment for the town centre in almost 30 years and will create a regionally significant and exemplar gateway with outstanding public realm.

“It will provide high-quality accessible and sustainable transport links with an emphasis on active travel options, which will improve health and wellbeing and also support our carbon reduction strategy vision to have a net zero-carbon economy by 2038.

“I’m delighted the scheme has taken another step forward and I look forward to seeing the final detailed design that will create a 21st century sustainable travel network that supports economic growth for the region and something people can be proud.”

Following our Executive’s decision, work will progress on detailed designs and a final business case for each of the three schemes. The business cases will be submitted to the West Yorkshire Combined Authority, which is administering funds on behalf of the Department for Transport. Subject to its approval of the plans, contractors will be appointed and work could begin in each town later this year.

Traffic Regulation Orders would be necessary for various works, and these would be open to public comment.

Although the Department for Transport set an initial completion date of March 2023, the Department has advised that completion could extend into 2024.