Objectors are this weekend planning two events to “Save the Nidd Gorge”, but the action is premature say North Yorkshire County Council.
The Nidd Gorge in Harrogate is hugely popular with dog walkers and the area was developed further with the opening of a greenway that runs from Starbeck through to Ripley.
The Bilton Conservation Group have been helping protect and maintain the rural environment of the Nidd since 1982. Most recently the group have been looking at the risk posed to the area with housing. Their approach has been to evaluate and develop a strategy involving engagement with the parties involved.
During January 2017, a further group was formed, under the banner of the Nidd Gorge Community Action. They have events planned this weekend with a display of the issues the area faces and a massed dog walk.
The area has been earmarked as a possible route for a relief road. The route would link Bilton Lane towards Killinghall, but the plans are in very early days – This is a County Council development, as part of their responsibility for Highways.
The area is also not a designated green space and, in the development of the local development plan, a possible area for future housing – This is a Borough Council development, as part of their responsibility to develop a local plan, identifying possible land for housing.
The action is premature say County Council as ideas and proposals are still in the very early stages of development.
North Yorkshire Council’s Executive member for Highways Don Mackenzie said:My advice to those who are manning the barricades is to calm down.
We are simply at the start of a very long process which is unlikely to lead to any new road for a very long time – say 10 years. If this new group wishes to remain in a state of high excitement for the next several years then so be it. But they should not be alarming local residents with bogus warnings of diggers arriving in the Nidd Gorge any time soon.
The County Council has a duty to explore all options to reduce congestion on our existing highways network. One of those options is the construction of a relief road. Whether the Steering Group which I chair decides to recommend to the County Council that a new road is the right option remains to be seen. We will be studying a great deal of data provided by highways officers. If we decide it is, there will be consideration of which of the route options for that new road offer(s) the best solution to reducing congestion in both Harrogate and Knaresborough.
We are well aware of the importance of the Nidd Gorge and of the Nidderdale Greenway. The self-styled saviours of Nidd Gorge should remember that two members of the Steering Group – Michael Harrison and I – were the elected members who drove what was then called the Bilton to Ripley Cyclepath through to its final realisation. Having devoted so much time from 2006 to 2011 on the project, we are not intent now upon causing it damage.
Similarly, we recognise the importance of the Nidd Gorge as a green space between Harrogate and Knaresborough. Any decision on a preferred route – which would only be taken after detailed consideration of all factors, and after keeping all residents fully informed – would take environmental issues foremost into account.
We are also aware that problems of congestion can be tackled by persuading people to abandon their cars and take to their bicycles or to their feet, but there are many residents who believe that is not a practicable and total answer. Most residents are of the opinion that at the same time improvements need to be made to the highways infrastructure and it is perfectly understandable why they should think so.
Having listened to the views of many Bilton residents over many years, most express their concerns about ever-rising levels of congestion on Skipton Road. We owe it to them and to all our residents to tackle that problem by exploring all options.
It has not been able to obtain comment from the Nidd Community Action Group.