Dave Prince, Starbeck has written to the Harrogate Informer about the current proposals for a relief road that would potentially pass through the Nidd Gorge.
Dave Prince said:
I have asked North Yorkshire County Council via a freedom of information request for the data and methodology on which their traffic modelling and concisions about the effectiveness of the four proposed relief routes were based. They have so far refused to release it arguing it is hard for a mere citizen to understand, I have asked for the decision to be reviewed. Currently I have little confidence in their conclusions, but I would at least like the opportunity to scrutinise them effectively. This was something Don Mackenzie indicated would be an option last year.
I am not in principle opposed to a relief road although it would have both financial and environmental costs. My concern is that NYCC see it as a panacea for Harrogate’s transport issues rather than part of the solution. I am worried about a lack of transparency and a lack of political will to make some of the hard sustainable transport choices.
For example actively encouraging modal shift within town inline with the Governments cycling and walking investment strategy something which Andrew Jones MP launched this week. In my views we need to give over motorised vehicle road space to both buses, cyclists and pedestrians within central Harrogate to make some car journeys more difficult to encourage car and lorry traffic to use any relief road when built.
Currently Don Mackenzie seems to see more roads as THE answer where at best it is but part of a solution as nearly all large towns and cities globally have realised. A good starting point for this process would be scrutiny of what data we have about Harrogate traffic flows and understanding of what modelling has taken place along with the view of other experts about whether this work is in their opinion valid.
Don Mackenzie is the North Yorkshire County Council Executive Member with responsibility for Highways, road safety, access to the countryside (including Broadband, mobile phone coverage) and public transport.
Cllr Mackenzie said:
First, I was not aware of the FOI request made by Mr Prince. No doubt, NYCC will provide a reply in due course. For my part, the very early, indicative data provided to the HRR Steering Group showing the effects of each option on existing and forecast traffic flows is based on the traffic modelling work commissioned recently by both NYCC and HBC.
Further reports will come to the Steering Group and will be shared by a very wide, representative Engagement Group including cyclists.
I would like to reassure Mr Prince that I certainly do not view the HRR as a panacea for the congestion problems affecting Harrogate and Knaresborough. There has been early agreement between the Steering Group and highways officers that complementary sustainable transport options would be considered together with, or separate from, new road infrastructure.
I recognise the fact that cycling groups – and Mr Prince – support any measures to bring about modal shift in transport and travel, including reducing the space on roads for vehicles and reserving it for cyclists. Equally, we must take into account that there are very many residents who would not agree with such measures.
I agree that there will be financial and environmental costs with any new transport infrastructure of any type. Environmental considerations will be given the highest priority, especially when assessing an option involving the Nidd Gorge. As far as the funding of any proposal is concerned, a bid to central government would be subjected to rigorous scrutiny and must represent excellent value for money to have any chance of success.
Finally, I wish to assure Mr Prince and others that there will be complete transparency as we take this matter forward. I do not accept his claim that NYCC officers have withheld traffic data because it is too complicated for ordinary folk to understand. I have never encountered what he suggests is a patronising attitude in my many years of working with highways officers. The data being used by both councils for planning and transport purposes is computerised software, not available as a report to be published either electronically or in print.