Harrogate Station Gateway
HARROGATE STATION GATEWAY
Comments from Harrogate Civic Society. 20th March 2021
These comments are the result of consideration of the proposals by the Planning and Development Sub-group of the Society, together with a broader consultation with other members.
The Society wishes to state at the outset that it welcomes the opportunity to improve this Gateway to the town and is grateful for the opportunity to give considered and reasoned comments and opinions on the options put forward.
There is a problem with making comments on these specific options (which focus on a relatively small section of Harrogate Town Centre) when there is no indication of these being part of a longer-term, integrated traffic policy for the wider area. As with previous proposals (some of which have been implemented) there is the very real possibility that, without a clear traffic policy for the whole of the town, these changes will in the future be seen as having been unnecessary or detrimental.
One of the major problems for traffic in Harrogate is that (in the absence of an effective by pass) through traffic has to use the town centre. Whilst north bound traffic can drive straight through, south bound traffic is forced around a lengthy and contorted route (this will potentially be made worse by the proposed one-lane proposal). The Society would like to see a study of the impact of re-opening West Park and Parliament Street to (at least some) two-way traffic. This could relieve many of the problems that have been identified as the reasons for these present proposals.
There is a concern that these proposals have been driven by the requirements of vehicular traffic (including cyclists), with limited consideration of the way that pedestrians, the users of mobility scooters, and disabled drivers move around the area.
The Society has a strong preference for the Two Lane Option.
The reasons for this strong preference are:
• It is not believed that vehicular traffic will use Cheltenham Mount in preference to Cheltenham Parade without much stronger deterrents at the junction of the two roads than are being proposed.
• There is a height restriction for traffic going under the railway bridge over Bower Road, which means that this route is not available to many high vehicles.
• Cheltenham Mount has a high density of residential buildings which will be adversely affected by an increase in traffic.
• The Two Lane Option provides much better routes for cyclists.
• The One Lane Option would create serious difficulties for traffic (and particularly for emergency vehicles) in the event of a vehicle breakdown in the one lane section past the bus station and the Victoria Shopping Centre.
The proposals to make the northern section of Station Parade one way south-bound are welcomed. However, the Society is concerned that a two-way cycle way on this section of road will mean that north-bound cyclists will be moving against the flow of other traffic, which will be confusing and, thus, dangerous. Would it not be possible for north-bound cyclists to use Commercial Street?
Similarly, the Society considers that the two-lane cycle way along the section of Station Parade past the bus station and the Victoria Shopping Centre will also be confusing and, thus, dangerous. Would it not be possible for north-bound cyclists to use Beulah Street, albeit that this is currently predominantly a pedestrian street?
The value of the section of the proposed cycle way south from the vehicular exit from the bus station to the entrance to the station forecourt (Zone 2 Plan C) appears very questionable, particularly given its isolation from other sections of cycle way and the way that it will result in confusion and, thus, danger at the exit from the bus station. It is strongly considered that this section of cycle way should be omitted.
The re-location of taxis away from Station Parade would be seriously detrimental (ideally they should be accommodated in the station forecourt). Taxis need to be immediately available for those arriving at the station and bus station; they cannot sensibly be re-located to James Street. Could the use of technology reduce the number of taxis that need to be on Station Parade? Maybe with a holding area nearby with taxis called forward when required.
Whilst the proposed widening of the pavements along James Street is considered to be beneficial, the Society would strongly prefer James Street to remain open to vehicular traffic and to provide on-street parking at all times. The possible introduction of trees is welcomed but it is considered that the other planting would not be beneficial, particularly at low level where it would be vulnerable to damage. The Society considers that the images of the proposals will not be matched by the reality because of problems with litter, damage to planting and inconsistent repairs to paving (see what has happened in Cambridge Street). Many members of the Society have stated how important they consider traffic is in order to give a feeling of security – particularly late afternoon and evenings. Cambridge Street and Oxford Street are considered to be frightening environments out of shopping hours.
Albert Street could be pedestrianised from Station Parade to Princes Square, or have much wider pavements, to encourage sitting out for the restaurants. This would give another safe area for pedestrians.
The Society is concerned that the proposal does not include a requirement that cyclists dismount when using One Arch. Whilst the joint use of this route by pedestrians and cyclists is accepted, it should be noted that the form of the arch means that there is limited headroom and mounted cyclists therefore have to keep to the centre, forcing pedestrians to the sides.
The areas being considered for improvement are within a Conservation Area and accordingly a particularly high quality of design is necessary, reflecting the historic landscape and materials used in creating the town.
The detailed choice of surfacing materials is crucial and the Society is worried that there will be a tendency to use a wide variety of materials to express different road and pavement functions. This will lead to a fussy and confusing appearance. The Society recommends that a very limited palette of materials, reflecting those used on Harrogate’s historic buildings, should be used.
Similarly, there is a concern that the proposals will result in a clutter of signs, barriers, and other street furniture. The Society recommends that an audit of the current street furniture in the area be undertaken and that the detailed design of the final proposals should have the objective of removing as much existing street furniture as possible and limiting any new street furniture to the absolute minimum. In addition, the design of all new street furniture should be very carefully considered to avoid fussy design solutions.
It is considered that the beginning and ends of the various cycle lanes are often ill-defined, with no clear indication of how cyclists move into the lanes and/or where they go as they leave. As a result, both pedestrians and the users of mobility buggies will be placed at risk. This is particularly true of the proposals for the junction of Station Parade and Cheltenham Parade. It is considered that what is being proposed is worse than the present arrangement (which, in turn, is worse that the previous layout) and the Society notes that there have been three fatal accidents at this junction in the last few years.
It is unclear what will be proposed for the station forecourt. This needs to be comprehensively re-planned in relation to vehicular traffic. A few additional trees and new seating would be an inadequate contribution to these proposals. This area might be usefully used for cycle storage and taxis (see comments above) but the drop-off facility needs to be retained.
The need for major change to Station Square is questioned. The principal problems with this space relate to inadequate maintenance and poor collection of litter (problems that we suspect will remain however much money is spent on re-design). Also, the Society is doubtful about the demand for public events in the Square.
If any change to Station Square is undertaken, the Society suggests that the key issues that need to be addressed are:
• The very poor first impression given to visitors to Harrogate as a result of the view from the pedestrian crossing west across the open space towards the alley and the service area on the south side of the Victoria Shopping Centre.
• The lack of any sense of orientation for visitors arriving by train. This could be improved through signposting and good information panels, although the best solution would be the re-location of the Tourist Information Office from its present location in the Royal Baths (which is not close to any point where visitors are likely to arrive) to Station Square or one of its surrounding buildings.
• The poor setting of the Queen Victoria Monument (which is a listed building). The Society would prefer the Monument to remain in its present (and original) location unless a very good case can be made for its re-location. The best option would be for any re-design of the space to give proper regard to the Monument by making it a feature of the space.
• The management of the Square to ensure that any activities or concessions reflect the character of Harrogate.
• The idea of a fountain is welcomed but not the idea of a pond. There used to be a water feature but this was removed, presumably because of problems of litter, misbehaviour etc. The area for a proposed reflection pool is in shade much of the time and it is doubtful whether it would attract visitors to sit and reflect.