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Harrogate Town Centre: There's more work to be done

September 8, 2019 12:35 PM

Last week the results of local MP Andrew Jones' Harrogate town centre survey were published. The local Liberal Democrats welcome the input of the public in determining the best way forward for our town centre. But those survey results leave many questions still to be answered.

Town Centre Sep 19

There is much more work to be done on this subject. A number of questions and conclusions spring to mind when the results are analysed:

  • How are the responses from 2,700 people from a population of over 160,000 people living in this District a representative sample?
  • The report of the retail inquiry says that the surveys were delivered to 10,000 households. It does not make clear how these households were selected, and whether they were concentrated around Harrogate town centre.
  • Given that 83% of respondents said they visit the town centre at least once a week, 61% gave their main reason for shopping in Harrogate as 'close to home', and 48% walk into town, it seems reasonable to assume that most of the people responding were local residents. What about local businesses and visitors to the town?
  • It is striking that only 6% of respondents said they are very satisfied with the town centre. 49% were 'fairly satisfied' meaning that there must be room for improvement. But 45% were not satisfied. That is a large minority who cannot be ignored.
  • Only 24% of respondents travel into town on public transport. That may be because so many live locally. But even so, 57% of respondents come into town by car. 1277 people said that there are enough bus services, but only 587 say they used the bus. Surely more can be done to encourage people out of their cars and onto public transport to ease congestion, reduce pollution and make parking easier?
  • In response to the question about pedestrianisation, it was said that almost half want this and a quarter do not. However, the question was framed in such a way as to tie pedestrianisation together with spaces for disabled blue badge holders. When asked what one thing they would change about the retail experience in Harrogate, only 3% said they wanted more pedestrian areas. Public opinion on this issue is clearly something that needs to be explored much further before any decisions can be reached.

Judith Rogerson, Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Candidate for Harrogate & Knaresborough said:

"Analysis of the answers to Andrew Jones' survey questions suggests that those who responded mostly live close to Harrogate town centre. A plan to improve the town centre certainly needs to include those who live nearby, but it also needs the input of local business owners and visitors from out of town. The survey does not seem to give us a representative sample of those whose views need to be taken into account before important decisions are made about the future.

There is clearly much more work to be done before we can conclude that all is well for the future of Harrogate town centre, or indeed neighbouring town centres in Knaresborough and Boroughbridge."

Cllr Pat Marsh said:

"I think if Andrew Jones started knocking on doors and speaking to the residents of this District he might find out the real truth.I am assuming that he has now closed the door on anymore work on addressing the issues surrounding our town centre; he appears to have ticked a box and moved on without any clear ideas or actions.

I would therefore urge the BID to start the process of building a Town Team to bring everyone together to develop the vision and action needed to ensure our town centre remains viable and full of vitality."