SKIPTON’S ‘landmark’ £7.8m Gateway project is on track following the submission of plans for the transformation of the town’s railway station and surrounding area.

Although the scheme is still subject to a full business case, work, which will involve a re-configured station car park, including a new exit; and improved pedestrian links to the town centre and Aireville Park, is expected to start early in 2024.

North Yorkshire Council, which is seeking approval for the scheme, will decide on the plans, in its role as planning authority, and will also have input as the highways authority.

Its executive member for highways and transportation, Councillor Keane Duncan, said it was a ‘major step’ for Skipton.

He said: “Skipton’s landmark Station Gateway scheme remains on track with work progressing at pace.

“Submission of planning applications represents another major step forward, meanwhile work on the full business case continues ahead of construction expected to commence early next year.

“This £7.8 million scheme represents the biggest investment into the town for decades and will have a transformational impact. The Gateway project will create a more attractive area around the railway station, improve accessibility for all and enhance transport connectivity.

“It will be key to reducing congestion, improving safety and unlocking economic growth for Skipton and the wider Craven area.”

Plans for the railway station, the second busiest in North Yorkshire, after Harrogate, include changes to the car park, more disabled parking bays and the installation of 10 electric vehicle charging points.

The current vehicular entrance and exit to the station off Broughton Road will be changed to entrance only, and a new exit will be created at the far end of the car park, further along Broughton Road, going out of Skipton. Access around the car park will remain one-way.

Also included is a new bus stop and drop off/coach parking, opposite the station, and new cycle and pedestrian access from Broughton Road to the station car park.

Further reconfiguration of the existing staff parking area is planned and approval for the removal of 12 existing trees to allow overall planned changes to the car park. Their removal will be mitigated by the planting of 19 new trees in the car park itself, and 17 at Aireville Park.

A partially demolished wall in the west of the car park will be realigned to make way for the new exit, and in addition, 25metres of new wall will be built in the east of the car park.

It is also planned to improve outside facilities at the station with the addition of a new cycle shelter, seating, lighting around the perimeter and a safe crossing point. ‘Black Walk’ the footpath to the town centre, which comes out behind Tesco Supermarket will be resurfaced and there will be a new stepped access to Morrisons Supermarket.

In a design and access statement, town planners WSP said the aims of the project are to make the town centre a more attractive place to live, work and invest in by removing dated highways structures and making walking and cycling the obvious choice to access ‘transport hubs’.

It also aims to improve access to areas such as the high schools and Craven college, and to make travelling by public transport an ‘attractive and more reliable offer for commuters’.

It states: “The Skipton Transforming Cites Fund scheme will complement the wider Leeds City Region schemes, ultimately providing a transformational change in the region’s transport system by providing opportunities to make reliable, safe, and attractive journeys by using public transport and by cycling and walking.”

It adds more than 1.2 million journeys were made from the station in 2018/19 with pre-Covid projections showing ‘significant future passenger growth’ and a more than eight per cent increase in demand by 2043.

“The railway station’s existing public realm and accessibility result in a poor-quality transport gateway. Existing cycling infrastructure is generally poor, with insufficient segregated cycling provision, and a lack of dedicated cycling routes connecting with the railway / bus station resulting in limited opportunities for sustainable modal transfer. In addition, Skipton’s ageing population, poses significant health costs associated with inactivity rates, deprivation, and insufficient access to sustainable and active travel opportunities.”

There is also the economic cost associated with “a lack of access to employment and/or educational opportunities.”

“ Skipton has a particular concentration of employment in higher value industries, however, much of this work is occupied by in-commuters from other areas of the Leeds City Region while local residents occupy much of the traditionally lower paid roles within lower value sectors.

“The proposed scheme is aimed at encouraging investment in the town, supporting aspirations for economic growth by making it a more attractive place for businesses and employees. In turn, the scheme is anticipated to stimulate economic growth and address the key issues associated with an ageing population; growing levels of economic inactivity, and an economic imbalance that results from a highly qualified and educated population, coupled with a generally low wage and low skill economy.”

Also planned, in addition to the work around the railway station is improvements to the canal towpath footpath from the station to Skipton Auction Mart, and from the railway station to the bus station.

Plans for the improvement of the area around the railway station were first put forward by the former Craven District Council working with the former North Yorkshire County Council with funding from the Leeds City Region Transforming Cities Fund. The West Yorkshire Combined Authority prioritised nine ‘gateways’ for improvement as part of the TCF bid, including Skipton.