A furious row has erupted after a council report suggested scrapping parking outside shops on Leeds Road to ease traffic congestion.
The findings of North Yorkshire County Council traffic engineers have been met with fury from shopkeepers who say businesses would suffer if shoppers couldn’t park outside.
However, a council working group said angled parking is the main cause of the traffic problems at the junction.
The report said: ”Traffic flow will only improve if the echelon parking is removed. It was frustrating to watch the flow of traffic being affected time and time again by motorists driving in and out of the parking bays.”
However, Toni Medri, chairman of the Oatlands Committee of Traders said the council’s recommendations that visitors park at M&S Simply Food and walk to the shops would lead to the demise of the shopping parade.
He said: “The parade survives on passing trade. This was highlighted during the original junction alterations, which led to a huge drop in footfall. To date we still have not fully recovered.
“The report’s proposal is understandably being met by pure anger and genuine concern for the businesses and 75 employees along the parade; effectively the council is recommending the demise of the shopping centre.”
This is just the latest development in the long-running saga between the council and shop keepers which started when roadworks to allow the M&S to be built on the junction of Hookstone Road led to lengthy delays for commuters.
The council admits it has had a ‘significant’ number of complaints from motorists about the junction and the report said the changes have been ‘very unpopular’.
Complaints about the safety of the junction led to alterations last month and traffic engineers said they witnessed several ‘near misses’ at the junction when it was busy.
County Coun Gareth Dadd, Executive Member for Highways hit back and criticised Mr Medri for not entering a ‘constructive dialogue’ with the council and using the traffic issues to boost his profile ahead of local elections, when Mr Medri intends to stand.
He said: “We have just become embroiled in his political campaigning.
“There comes a point when we have to question the motives of Mr Medri.”
Coun Dadd added: “It is a draft report, a working report. We are never going to win on this one, we are never going to get it right for everyone, but we are not walking away from this.
“We are doing our best to come up with the best solution. As I have said time and time again we want to discuss the issues with people.”
Oatlands County Coun John Ennis (Con) slammed the council’s ‘sledgehammer approach’.
He said: “Most people realise there is a problem with vehicles reversing into the flow of traffic on Leeds Road. But reducing parking spaces so significantly is really taking a sledgehammer to crack a nut. It is a sledgehammer that could significantly affect trade on the parade.”
He added: “The vast majority of the recommendations are sensible, positive proposals for the area.”
The junction falls between two Harrogate Borough Council wards and Pannal Coun John Mann (Con) said it is the biggest problem in the area.
He said: “Something has to be done and done quickly as the long queues of traffic on Leeds Road going out of town often stretch back to the Prince of Wales roundabout. This must be deterring many visitors from coming to Harrogate and must be costing shops and businesses in town a lot of money.”
Stray ward councillors were unavailable when contacted by the Advertiser this week.