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MP rivals agree that council has let Harrogate down on cycling

Thursday, 20 June 2024 12:50

By Thomas Barrett, Local Democracy Reporter

Zero Carbon Harrogate's hustings event. (Credit: LDRS)

Andrew Jones and Tom Gordon didn’t agree about much at last night’s MP hustings event in Harrogate, but they both criticised North Yorkshire Council for its patchy record delivering cycle schemes for the town.

Zero Carbon Harrogate hosted the hustings at the Wesley Centre which was themed around the environment.

Five of the seven candidates were there to answer questions from the public with Reform UK’s John Swales and independent Stephen Douglas Metcalfe not attending.

The Local Democracy Reporting Service asked the candidates whether the council had let the area down due to its decision to either scale back or scrap projects like the Station Gateway, Otley Road cycle path phase 2 and the Beech Grove Low Traffic Neighbourhood.

Conservative Andrew Jones is looking to win his fifth term as MP and he said the council “can do a lot better than it has”.

He said:

“Otley Road was not a well-executed scheme and has damaged some appetite in our area for more cycle schemes.

"They can do quite significantly better. Improving sustainable transport is critical to making our places better, improving air quality and cutting carbon emissions.”

His Liberal Democrat rival Tom Gordon went further and accused the council of incompetence.

He said:

“We have a Tory-run council and has done an absolute bodge job on Station Gateway and Otley Road. We should demand better than what we are given.

"The council has been open to legal challenges, it’s absolutely ridiculous. We need to have a professional council that comes up with schemes that actually work and bring people along rather than railing them into it.”

Independent candidate Paul Haslam, who has sat as a Conservative for most of his 10 years on both Harrogate Borough Council and North Yorkshire Council, agreed that the council had let people down on active travel.

He pointed to the council’s much-publicised Harrogate Congestion Survey in 2019 which showed there was an appetite for improving walking and cycling infrastructure in the town

Mr Haslam added:

“We know what needs to change, we need the will to do it.”

The Green Party’s Shan Oakes said as a regular bus user she was exacerbated by the state of bus shelters provided by the council.

She said:

“I use buses a lot and you have bus shelters with nothing to sit on, how is that encouraging people to use the buses? Taking them into public hands would really improve things.”

Labour’s Conrad Whitcroft blamed the planning system for the council’s inability to deliver cycle schemes.

He said:

“It’s not all down to North Yorkshire Council but also the planning system. It’s biased in favour of doing nothing unless you have loads of money. Local council finances are stretched. We need to think nationally about this.”

 A full list of candidates standing in Harrogate & Knaresborough is below.

  • Paul Haslam – Independent
  • Andrew Jones – Conservative
  • Tom Gordon – Liberal Democrat
  • Stephen Douglas Metcalfe – Independent
  • Shan Oakes – Green Party
  • John Swales – Reform UK
  • Conrad Whitcroft – Labour

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