North Yorkshire County Councillors listened yesterday (27 February 2014) to objections being raised around traffic congestion in Harrogate.
A number of local businesses attended the North Yorkshire County Council area committee for the Harrogate district and spoke against the traffic problems in the town.
The junction of the Leeds road, Leadhall lane and Hookstone road has been subject to severe congestion since the work began on a new Marks & Spencer food store build in September 2013.
Damian James hair studio were represented at the meeting. In a letter to the Councillors, they described the traffic management as a farce and hugely damaging to local businesses. They said that the shopping parade had now become very quiet and that many of their customers had now been lost. They called for a rebate of their business rates as compensation.
People have reported up to 40-minutes being added to their journey times since the work began. Currently traffic is restricted to a single lane heading and single lane heading out on the Leeds side of the junction. The footpath has also been limited to one side of the road as work on services happens on the other.
Brian Dunsby, the Chief Executive of the Harrogate Chamber of Trade and Commerce addressed the meeting.
Brian Dunsby said: The effect on local business is very serious with a knock-on effect for town centre trade.
Traffic travelling towards Harrogate is often stationary from Pannal and from the Prince of Wales travelling out of the town.
We welcome the development of the Marks and Spencers site and recognise that the road works are necessary.
We need to get this junction moving better than it is though
Councillor Trotter spoke in support of the development.
Councillor Trotter said:The road is the gateway to Harrogate and we need to be a little more patient, the work has been an absolute joke though.
Councillor Richard Cooper commented on the time the roadworks have been going on for.
Councillor Cooper said: This work has gone on for a long time and it looks set to go on for a long time yet. The developers really need to get the foot on the gas.
Business rate reductions for businesses in the area is not an unreasonable request.
North Yorkshire Highways said that there were ongoing substantial changes to the junction.
Those using a possible alternate route of the Wetherby road will also be subject to delays with traffic lights and road works by the Northern Gas Network. This work is planned to run between the 19 February and 6 March 2014.
James Malcolm, Area Highways Manager, said: The junction has been been operating at a much reduced capacity, with much of the work happening underground and not visible.
We have tried to minimise disruption as much as possible and have monitored the traffic with adjustments made to the timings where necessary.
We have been continually pushing the contractors to accelerate the programme. Once complete though, this junction
Construction Director Dan Murray of the site’s Development Managers, St James Securities, said: We understand the frustration experienced by local traders and road users and would like to apologise. The works are being undertaken to enable a new M&S store to open this summer and we have worked very hard with North Yorkshire County Council’s Highways Department to find a way to carry out the necessary works as quickly and safely as possible. There has been consultation with local councillors, key stakeholders and the local bus operators to establish how best to proceed.
The roadworks are due to take around a further nine weeks to complete, with a number of different phases which will involve alterations to the road layout several times during that period.
We accept that the works at this junction are creating some significant queues at times. The highway works at this location are very complex for a number of reasons – there is a planning requirement to substantially change the layout of this junction to accommodate the additional traffic generated by the new store, whilst amending and avoiding an extensive network of intertwined underground services and accommodating pedestrian needs and all types of vehicles at the same time on one of the busiest roads in Harrogate.
This week we have discovered uncharted high voltage cables under the western side of Leeds Road which will have to be moved. Work is also needed to protect low voltage cables and both of these require the assistance of the electricity utility company. We have also discovered some damaged drains which need to be replaced and further issues with some of the BT ducts. Despite these setbacks, a significant amount of progress has been made already. The project was always anticipated to take until April 2014 to complete and we now expect to be finished by early May 2014. The contractor will be maximising productivity by undertaking some tasks, where permitted, during the day and in the evening until midnight.
It is acknowledged that the junction is currently operating at a much reduced capacity as traffic lanes have been restricted to enable the road to be widened, new drainage, utility services and a new footway to be installed. This is of course, very disappointing but also inevitable given the limitations on road space around the site. The traffic lights timings have been amended since this current phase of construction was installed and this is being monitored.