In late 2017, North Yorkshire County Council announced plans to consult options to reduce the traffic congestion in Harrogate.
On the 7 December 2017, those options went to the Area Committee, an advisory committee on the proposals. At that committee Councillor Richard Cooper pulled tabled a further option of sustainable options only be taken forward and that talk around a relief road shelved.
The relief road proposal would be from Killinghall to the Southern bypass, through the Nidd Gorge.
On the 15 December, it was presented before the NYCC Business and Enironmental Services (BES) Executive. The Executive took the decision to develop the options further, consult with the Area Committee, before going to a public consultation.
So why is this an own goal by the those protesting against the proposals ?
A straw poll we undertook demonstrated that around 70% of the public wanted to be consulted on solutions. NYCC are now developing possible solutions in greater detail. That means looking further at the route of the relief road and its environmental impact.
Additionally, demand management options will be developed. This could be reduced parking in the town centre, congestion charging areas and more no-car areas.
Much of the strategy of those protesting has been about crushing debate. But trying to stop sensible discussion will now backfire.
When the options come before the area committee, some time later this year, they will be as a far more developed solution. Although the area committee will likely not support the options, that is of little consequence as their opinion is only advisory to the whole debate – NYCC won’t have spent time and money on developing solutions for it to not go to the public for their views.
If the options had been put to public consultation now, the outcome would be far less certain.
So the public, that is being worn down by congestion, will be presented broadly with two options, either a relief road or other measures that will no doubt cause cost and inconvenience. While many in the Bilton area have a strong attachment to the Nidd Gorge, that’s not the case throughout Harrogate. Something known by those against the relief road, saying that people have had the opportunity to voice an opinion at the area committee.
But even with public support from a consultation, there is still a long haul for a project of this scale to become reality – the diggers are not queuing up on Bilton Lane, just yet.