Does Harrogate need a makeover?
PUBLISHED: 15:17 15 November 2011 | UPDATED: 20:19 20 February 2013
What does the future hold for Harrogate? Jo Haywood investigates
The print version of this article appeared in the November 2011 issue of Yorkshire Life
We can deliver a copy direct to your door order online here
Philip Lunn is a man with a plan. He has a dream scheme to change the face of Harrogate forever but does he have the backing of this North Yorkshire town?
As the managing director of Harrogate-based Lateral Property Group he has used private capital to research, investigate and map out a vision for the future of the town.
Ive worked on major projects all over the country, but this is different. This is my home town, he said. I live and work in Harrogate and have young children growing up here.
Yes, I have a vested interest in many of the properties affected, but I also have a passionate vision that Im completely committed to.
I could invite cheap brands on to the street that offer an easy buck but thats not what I want. This vision may be the harder route, but its the most worthwhile.
The main thrust of Mr Lunns vision is the pedestrianisation of Parliament Street, currently one of the towns busiest thoroughfares and main arterial traffic routes. He also wants to create a water trail to guide visitors around fountains and sculptures to boost footfall in five key areas.
Harrogate Civic Society members are all in favour of more fountains and sculptures they have unsuccessfully campaigned on this front themselves in the past but their enthusiasm wanes when it comes to the pedestrianisation of Parliament Street.
Mr Lunn has some very good ideas, but weve had to conclude that rerouting traffic to avoid a pedestrianised Parliament Street is not one of them, said Henry Pankhurst, chairman of the 300-strong society. The alternate route is just not practical, particularly for larger vehicles which would find it almost impossible to navigate.
The society applauds Mr Lunns idea to use subliminal street planning to mark a clear route from the bus and railway stations to the premier shopping areas, but its not convinced that the route should lead to a traffic-free Parliament Street.
Harrogate is not a large town and we already have a fair proportion of pedestrianised streets, said Mr Pankhurst. Its just not needed here on such a steep hill.
Simon Cotton, president of Harrogate Chamber of Trade & Commerce and general manager of Cedar Court Hotel, disagrees, citing the development of Parliament Street as a major component in Harrogates future success.
Harrogate is unique, he said. It will never compete head to head with its larger neighbours of York and Leeds in shopping terms because they are cities and their offering is completely different; but it is that difference that sets us apart and allows us to compete on a different level.
We need to keep evolving though and the one thing Harrogate lacks is a central or focal point. Plans to develop Parliament Street offer an opportunity to provide this whilst retaining the individuality of the town.
Research carried out by FSP Market Research on behalf of Lateral Property Group found that the available spend in Harrogate is 461m, but that 290m leaks out to other shopping destinations like Leeds and York.
This is about economic necessity, said Mr Lunn. The launch of Trinity shopping centre in Leeds is huge. We cant ignore the threat of other bigger and better offerings. Harrogate isnt like any other town. It has one of the wealthiest demographics in the UK.
If we dont act, it could be on the skids. Many independent retailers are struggling. Its time we did something about that. Its time we had a return to civic pride and brought Parliament Street back to its former glory.
Mr Lunn is obviously aware that not everyone in town shares his enthusiasm for change and, more particularly, pedestrianisation. But he believes traffic can be rerouted without impacting significantly on flow.
We have bountiful attractions, the majority of which are let down by the environment they sit in, he said. They all have to contend with a town dominated by the car. Its time to change that.
Sandra Doherty, chairman of Accommodation Harrogate and owner of Alexa House, believes the town is ripe for change too.
What does the future hold for Harrogate? she said. Well, who can say? But in a town full of individuals with such character, you can be sure it will evolve to meet every expectation thrown at it.
Its small enough to care, big enough to offer choice and, most importantly, savvy enough to embrace change.
A spokesman for Harrogate Borough Council declined to comment on Mr Lunns vision, saying: The council is always in a difficult position when this sort of thing is under public debate because eventually it will come down to the planning system which is quasi judicial. We have to be careful not to pre-empt.
The plan comes in the wake of a recent decision by councillors to rubber-stamp a new Tesco store on the former gasworks at New Park in Harrogate the last postcode in mainland Britain without one of its supermarkets.
Some believe this decision and the outline plans for Parliament Street mark the start of a new era for Harrogate.
Our town is at a crossroads, Mr Lunn concluded. This is our chance to actually leave a legacy. We cant afford to waste this opportunity or squander the money.
This is a fantastic opportunity to make a great town even greater.
What do you think?
Let us know your thoughts, ideas and opinions on the future of Harrogate by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org, tweeting @Yorkshire_life or writing to Yorkshire Life, PO Box 163 Ripon, North Yorkshire, HG4 9AG.
Digging for victory
Harrogate district took centre stage and virtually every award going at this years Yorkshire In Bloom awards.
It came away with 11 category wins; the most in any one area since the horticultural awards began in 1964. Not content with that, it also picked up five of the 15 gold medals awarded across the region.
Councillor Caroline Bayliss, cabinet member of cultural services at Harrogate Borough Council and a long-standing In Bloom volunteer, said she was bowled over by this years results.
The awards ceremony is always great, but to get 11 outright wins and 11 medals, well, we just about lifted the roof off, she said. Especially as many of the category wins came with gold medals, which was the pinnacle of all our hopes.
Getting there: Harrogate is off the A59 and close to the A1M junction 46.
Parking: There is plenty on street parking, paid for and free as well as multi-story car parking.
What to do: Great for shopping, going to the theatre and big name concerts. There is a great variety of restaurants