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Mayoral candidates hoping for a cleaner, greener Harrogate

Thursday, 18 April 2024 17:10

By Thomas Barrett, Local Democracy Reporter

Keith Tordoff, Felicity Cunliffe-Lister and Paul Haslam.

Three candidates hoping to be the first Mayor of York and North Yorkshire were in Harrogate last night for an environment-themed hustings.

It was organised by charity Zero Carbon Harrogate with Felicity Cunliffe-Lister (Liberal Democrat), Keith Tordoff (Independent) and Paul Haslam (Independent) answering questions on topics including cycling, energy, climate change and trees.

The other three candidates chose not to attend due to other commitments.  These were Keane Duncan (Conservative), David Skaith (Labour) and Kevin Foster (Green).

Around 50 people attended the hustings at the Wesley Centre which was chaired by ZCH chair Jemima Parker.

Station Gateway

Many in Harrogate have grown frustrated with the pace of change around encouraging people out of cars, with some viewing the £12.1m Station Gateway scheme as a prime example of how politicians have watered down grand ambitions around cycling and walking.

One person asked a question about the troubled project and called on the new mayor to “stand up for the greater good” on active travel rather than “caving in to the small minority”.

Mr Tordoff described the gateway scheme as a “disaster” and a “vanity project”.

He said:

“There has been disjointed planning and thinking at the council. If we’re doing cycle schemes they need to last longer than a few hundred metres like at Otley Road. We need a bit of common sense.”

Mr Haslam, who is an independent councillor but was a member of the Conservatives on North Yorkshire Council until he decided to run for mayor, blamed a technical error during the consultation which led to the legal challenge from Hornbeam Park Developments.

He added:

“The Station Gateway should have had a better solution for the active travel.”

Ms Cunliffe-Lister, who sits on the council as a Lib Dem, said there had been “really, really poor decision-making” in Northallerton with leaders unwilling to accept the blame.

She said:

“They’ve relied on consultants to hide behind and absolve responsibility. It’s so underwhelming, it’s more than disappointing.”


Ms Cunliffe-Lister said she is pledging to extend the popular Nidderdale Greenway to Pateley Bridge and would introduce an integrated transport system, where buses and train timetables work together. 

She’s also the owner of the Swinton Park Hotel and said encouraging greener tourism would be key to her approach as mayor.

The council has flirted with the idea of a park-and-ride system for Harrogate for many years which Mr Tordoff said he supports. He also said cyclists should have better storage for their bikes and the police should take the theft of bicycles more seriously.

He added:

“Some people don’t bother reporting them when they’re stolen.”

Active travel schemes in Harrogate have been divisive and Mr Haslam said it’s important that “we take everyone along with us”.

He is also a proponent of a one-ticket system for all modes of transport and said buses must be more reliable so people can trust that they will arrive on time.


There’s been a massive increase in housebuilding across Harrogate in recent years and all candidates agreed that more should be done to make homes more energy efficient.

They also called for increased investment into skills so young people could be trained in building the homes of the future as well as retrofitting old properties, with well-paid jobs keeping talent in the county.

Mr Haslam said renewable energy should go hand-in-hand with housebuilding and said he would encourage a more energy-efficient social housing stock.

He said:

“We have houses with a huge footprint, they should all have solar panels.”

Ms Cunliffe-Lister said “we have a great wealth of natural capital” in North Yorkshire so the county should be able to generate more of its own electricity.

According to the website Electricity Production (https://electricityproduction.uk/in/yorkshire/) around half of North Yorkshire’s energy has recently come from biomass like at Drax’s Selby plant.

Ms Cunliffe-Lister said she was the first hotel in the UK to have a biomass boiler in 2006.

Mr Tordoff said he was in favour of housebuilding on brownfield sites to protect green fields.

He added he favoured modular homes that can be built quickly with a much lower carbon footprint than traditional bricks and mortar homes.


Harrogate and Ripon have grabbed negative national headlines in recent years due to controversial planning applications that involve chopping down trees.

Decisions on Harrogate Spring Water’s expansion and Ripon Cathedral’s new annexe could be made this summer.

Ms Cunliffe-Lister emphasised her credentials as a landowner and hotelier and said Swinton Park has committed to increase forestry by 50% over a 20-year period. She said her business had planted 30,000 new trees.

Mr Haslam said cutting down trees should be minimised and only in exceptional circumstances such as when they are diseased. Two years ago, the Woodland Trust was forced to fell hundreds of larch trees in Nidd Gorge due to disease.

Mr Haslam added:

“A single tree is worth £250,000 in carbon sequestration.”

Mr Tordoff said he viewed cutting down trees as “vandalism”. He was the only candidate to criticise the two controversial planning applications. He added: “We’ve got to protect trees”.

The election to be mayor of York and North Yorkshire will take place on May 2. Find more information here.

A full list of candidates are as follows:

  • Conservative – Keane Duncan.
  • Labour – David Skaith.
  • Liberal Democrat – Felicity Cunliffe-Lister.
  • Green Party – Kevin Foster.
  • Independent – Keith Tordoff.
  • Independent – Paul Haslam.

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