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:
- Further traffic flow measures to reduce congestion
- 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.
For the proposal to take two options to public consultation
- A relief road and other traffic/ sustainable measures
- 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
- 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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