North Yorkshire County Council will defer a public consultation on solutions for the congestion problems in Harrogate. This had previously been planned for January 2018.
The meeting of NYCC Business and Enironmental Services (BES) Executive (15 December 2017) concluded that it was now appropriate to gather further information on the two options, previously proposed, before it goes to a public consultation. This means that the public are likely have a say on the proposal for a relief road and package of other traffic measures in the second half of 2018.
This will include:
- Further information, but not an exact route, for a relief road through the Nidd Gorge area
- Further information on the environmental impact of the relief road
- Details on the other traffic measures eg congestion charging, removal of some town centre parking, additional parking charges and a park and ride
The meeting heard from three members of the public speaking, all speaking against the fundamental principle of a relief road. Comments were made around the work not being to DfT guidelines and that things had now moved on from building a relief roads and that it would contribute to pollution.
Andrew Bainbridge of NYCC Highways explained that if they simply dropped an option of a relief road then it could jeopardise gaining budgets for any improvements work. If evidence presented to the DfT wasn’t complete then funding would be difficult.
He emphasised that at this stage they are looking for the better performing options and not the best, they needed to be robust, transparent and auditable.
Three options were considered:
- To move to a consultation on two options around a relief road and traffic measures (as put to Area Committee)
- To consult on the Area Committee recommendation to consult only on traffic measures
- To develop further detail around the relief road and traffic measures
It was fully acknowledged that there was currently no specific route for the relief road and acknowledged that using Bilton Lane as an exit point for the relief road route was controversial, but provide added benefits.
Cllr Don Mackenzie, Cabinet Member for Highways, commented on criticism that the process being undemocratic, but pushed that back to those at the meeting opposing a consultation on a relief road, saying that they were the ones opposing 100,000 people in the area having an opportunity to fully comment.
Don Mckenzie said option 3, developing further detail before a consultation, was now his preferred option, but acknowledged that there were some difficult discussions ahead.
Cllr Andrew Lee said that he felt that to canvas public views was the right thing to do and to have a gap was wrong, that clearly some were against a relief road, but also some were supportive. It needed to be kept in context that this was about getting peoples views and not starting the work.
Corporate Director for BES, David Bowe said that they needed to take into account the views of the area committee. He felt that a petition handed to him was misleading in that it directly inferred that the Nidd Gorge would be destroyed. He felt that this was indicative of peoples views and understanding of the situation, adding that the greenway would only be potentially crossed at one point by a relief road and that the Nidd Gorge would not be destroyed.
David Bowe said that a package of measures including a stick and a carrot was needed, but would likely need a significant stick to get Harrogate people out of their cars.
The action now is to refine the relief road solution and the sustainable/ traffic options, before they are put before the Area Committee. There will also be further engagement with local business to gain their views.
Both the further detail on relief road and the other package of options is likely to develop further intense debate.