County Councillors fail to give support for public consultation on Harrogate relief road


Around 100 members of the public attended this mornings (7 December 2017) Area Committee at the Cairn Hotel in Harrogate.

The main item of discussion was whether to proceed with a public consultation on two options being put forward to reduce the congestion problem in the town. The committee were being asked to support taking two options for a consultation, not if they supported the options.

Unfortunately the meeting became more focused on a relief road passing through the Nidd Gorge than looking at sensible steps forward in solving the congestion problem.

The consultation would seek the view of the public on:

  1. Further traffic flow measures to reduce congestion
  2. Further traffic flow measures and an inner relief road passing through the Nidd Gorge

The meeting heard from around 12 members of the public/ other bodies.

Phil Ireland speaking for Harrogate Borough Council in his cabinet position of sustainable transport said the council was supportive in giving the public opportunity to comment, but expressed concerns that the impact of the options was not clear.

Malcolm Margolis spoke for cycling group Wheel Easy, a group that had helped the Greenway route to be established through the Nidd Gorge. He said that the area was a special part of the town, like the Stray or Valley Gardens and urged that it remained as it is.

Geoff Foxhall of the Starbeck Community Group said that case studies have shown that relief roads don’t work, something the Highways Officer said was simply not true.

Zero Carbon Harrogate acknowledged it was good to have an evidence based report, but said that the public didn’t understand what sustainable transport benefits mean.

Others also spoke on topics such as the health benefits in having access to green space, impact on local schools, fundamentally changing the character of the area and the timing of a consultation.

When the Highways Officers or Don Mackenzie (NYCC cabinet member for Highways) spoke there were frequent shouts from the crowd, with the chair having to pause the meeting on a number of times.

Andrew Bainbridge from Highways said he accepted that a relief road would change the character, but the full impact it would have on the Nidd Gorge was not clear. He said it was clear that the relief road would provide benefits. He answered public questions that had been put to him.

Councillor Don Mackenzie explained further about how the local economy relies on its transport network and and to be greeted by a queue of traffic on the way into the town is not welcoming. He continued that the easy option was to do nothing. At that point there was jeering and shouting from the public. Don Mackenzie then commented on it being a good example of trying to shout people down. He continued that people deserve the right to have involvement and it is not for the councillors but for the tax paying electorate to decide.

Councillor Micheal Harrison said he was supportive of a Killinghall bypass but not an inner relief road.

Sandra Doherty of the Harrogate District Chamber of Trade said the chamber supported giving the public a vote on a relief road.

Councillor Richard Cooper proposed an amendment that an option without a relief should be taken forward as a package of other measures. Councillor Cooper did this on the basis of a relief road scheme being undeliverable on a number of grounds including financial and environmental. Given the impact it would have on the Nidd Gorge and how unlikely it was that it would receive funding, he suggested it wasn’t time and money well spent pursuing it as an option.

He did however warn that the talked about other measures that would be needed, would also not be popular with the public. This could include more parking charges in the town centre, no-car or further permit-only areas.

He proposed a further motion that a single option be taken to consultation but only based around traffic/ sustainable measures and after more work had been done on them.

The vote

For the proposal to take two options to public consultation

  1. A relief road and other traffic/ sustainable measures
  2. A item 1 without a relief road

13 voted against, 3 supported and 1 abstained

For the proposal to take a single option to public consultation

  1. As item 2 above, traffic/ sustainable measures

2 voted against, 14 supported and 1 abstained

The vote from the Area Committee is not binding, but will now be taken forward for a decision by the Business and Environmental Services Executive next week.

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  1. Absolutely pathetic. Council cave in to Nidd Gorge campaigners. Option B probably doing nothing would be marginally worse. Very few of the demand management measures will work. Cycle routes No; park and ride no; etc etc. So glad an indolent, apathetic and complacent council (both NYCC and HBC) can let 4 primary schools, The hospital, The Macmillan cancer treatment centre, Nursing and care homes, tens of thousands of harrogate residents suffer from horrendous air quality on the margins of the Wetherby and Skipton Road. Ambulances and fire engines struggling to get through as cars drive up the pavement to let them through. Wonderful. Yes, lets get back to moving the deckchairs around the Titanic. It’s what you do best. Nimbies prevail !

    • Try reading the council’s own report commissioned by Don Mackenzie at al. Option B scores highest of all the proposals. Still, don’t let facts get in the way of your rant.

  2. Any attempt to desecrate the beautiful country and Villlages ,to ease traffic for Harrogate centre ,based on unproven theory would be the most expensive and harmful act of vandalism .

  3. Disgraceful headline……..they did not fail at all…….they supported the protection of a very important local green space! They voted against consultation on a relief road, which quite clearly from the WSP report indicated that this was NOT a solution to congestion and simply moved not to another area.

  4. Publish the date and results of the last Traffic Census .
    The density of Traffic from the South East along Leeds Road , from the East along Knaresborough Road , from South East along Wetherby Road , from the West along Skipton Road , from the North along Ripley Road , within the last 5 to 10 years has visibly increased . At peak hour times the Town Centre becomes static .
    Harrogate has not the option to widen all these approach Roads to ease the flow of Traffic .
    The attention to Park and Ride , as York have introduced , should be seriously considered .
    The Western Route from the South of Pannal to Ripley , although being the longest option , has consistently been frowned upon by the NIMBY group from
    Pannal Residents . This option would satisfy the reduction of traffic arriving and leaving Harrogate from the South , West , and North of Harrogate .
    The North Eastern option northeast of Knaresborough could be a secondary route .
    Park and Ride , and clear decisions of these 2 Bypass Routes should be the only solutions to this increasingly severe problem .
    Traffic density is not going to reduce in the next 40 years . The number of estimated Driverless Vehicles makes one shudder at the prospects of this imminent change to our vehicle choices and Transport conditions .
    We all have to “Grasp the Nettle” and make serious long lasting decisions .

      • Dear Editor – I wonder if you have read the WSP report? The traffic, as you say, if within the town, in which case an inner road will not ease congestion on Skipton Road, only increase traffic between the new road and Skipton Road, with around 1,000 cars per hour, at peak times, on Bilton Lane/Woodfield Road. The clue is in the phrase ‘within the town’……it stays ‘within the town’……the roads ‘within the town’ will not be any less congested!

        • “The WSP says that ‘Package C’, which comprises the relief road alone, is judged the ‘poorest performing’ of the five ‘packages’ (ie options) considered (page 31).”

  5. There’s absolutely no doubt that Harrogate needs a relief road. More than that, it needs a direct route to the motorway network. Any other town of a similar size and significance would’ve had this resolved well before now.

    That said, running a road through the Nidd Gorge doesn’t make sense. But I don’t believe the route would’ve gone through the gorge anyway: why build a bridge over it when they’re so expensive anyway? Take a look at a satellite map of the area, and look at the width of a road. It’s perfectly possible to build a relief road around the north or the west of the town, or indeed a link road to the A1(M), without huge damage to the environment.

  6. How many towns the size of Harrogate (& Knaresborough) do not contain a single dual-carriageway? Therein lies the problem. 21st century traffic levels using roads that remain unaltered since the 19th. As a minimum the A661 Wetherby Road needs to be dualled to take traffic to the Southern Bypass whence it can dissipate (proof of this working can be seen during the GYS when the tidal flow system is very effective). Similar is needed for the A61 Leeds Road southbound though how to deal with the A59 Skipton Road eludes me for the present

    Also needed is a Leeds style loop around the centre to take traffic out of the middle of town to allow pedestrianisation. This proposal was initially met with howls of outrage and forecasts of doom in Leeds but look at it now – a centre that makes Harrogate look like the wasteland it is fast becoming

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