North Yorkshire Council spends £2m on consultants for Harrogate scheme

North Yorkshire Council spends £2m on consultants for Harrogate scheme

The active travel project will transform the area outside Harrogate Station to make it more friendly for cyclists and pedestrians. It’s being led by North Yorkshire Council which replaced North Yorkshire County Council in April due to local government reorganisation.

To develop the project the council hired global consultancy firm WSP to draw up its business case and preliminary and detailed designs.

Following a freedom of information request submitted by the Local Democracy Reporting Service, North Yorkshire Council has revealed that just over £2 million has been paid to WSP so far with the majority going towards design costs.

In a statement, the council argued that the use of consultants for such a scheme is commonplace and typical of large-scale active projects across the country.

It also said consultants can help when there is not the required expertise within the council. 

Liberal Democrat councillor for Knaresborough West, Matt Walker, who is a critic of the Station Gateway scheme, said the amount spent on consultants is a signal that the project “is shaping up to be a money pit” for taxpayers.

He said: “That is a huge amount of public money to spend on consultants, more than 15 per cent of the cost of the scheme. It’s a money pit that is not part of a wider strategic plan for active travel and one which does not have the full backing of the local community, or businesses.

“The cost of building materials has already sky rocketed since the original costing for the scheme was done. Are we going to cut back on what is delivered or pour tax payers’ money into this scheme? What Harrogate needs is real investment, as part of a strategic plan to deal with congestion. Innovative and exciting options for active travel, not costly consultants.”

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The council said the sum paid to WSP has increased due to the additional public consultation which led to designs being changed.

North Yorkshire Council’s corporate director of environment, Karl Battersby said: “Consultants have only been used where there is not sufficient in-house resource or very specific expertise within the council. This is a common occurrence with consultants used for almost, if not all, Transforming Cities Fund projects across the country.

“The cost includes survey work as well as individual disciplines – landscaping, highways, traffic modelling, signals, drainage, lighting – consultation support, planning and Traffic Regulation Orders, and project management, including business case development, risk reviews, programming and attendance at meetings.

“The design cost has increased where additional works have been identified, such as revisions to landscaping or additional consultation engagement.”

The proposals include redeveloping the area outside Harrogate Station, making Station Parade single-lane to add cycle and bus lanes and part-pedestrianising James Street.

But it has divided the town with the results of the third and final round of public consultation, published in January, suggesting the Harrogate public are narrowly against it.

It’s still to receive final approval but won the backing of senior councillors in Northallerton at a meeting last month.

The predicted cost of the scheme is now £11.2 million — a sum that has risen considerably from the £7.9 million initially suggested by council.

  • June 25, 2023