A consultation is currently underway, looking to gain the views of the public on congestion in the Harrogate area and views on possible solutions.
One of the proposed solutions would include a relief road that would run from the southern bypass to Killinghall, passing near to Bilton.
A statement made by the opposition group, HALT, includes a claims around the proposal.
Claim: A relief road would destroy the Nidd Gorge
David Bowe, Corporate Director for Business and Environmental Services, said:
There is no detailed alignment for a relief road. However, the corridor that has been shown to be the most beneficial and deliverable is an inner southern relief road without a link to Bilton.
If the option of a relief road were to be pursued, the proposed road would lie somewhere in the Bilton Fields area and not close to Nidd Gorge itself.
Any relief road would be a single carriageway road with a speed limit of 60mph, like the existing southern bypass, with off-road facilities for cycling and walking. Its prime purpose would be to reduce traffic on existing local roads.
A relief road in isolation is unlikely to address all the congestion issues, so if this option were to be taken forward it would be as part of a package including other sustainable measures, including walking, cycling and passenger transport initiatives.
A spokesperson for the HALT campaign said:
No we have never thought the road would go through the actual river Gorge itself, that would be impossible, the Gorge and the surrounding area is known as Nidd Gorge conservation area, (essentially the green area on the map below, the red line is just my rough scribble of a possible route from a couple of months ago, but it isn’t too far off) this includes Bilton Fields.
The West Field will indeed be destroyed, as will the adjacent Nidd Gorge area, the river Gorge itself will not suffer from any direct damage from building work but the water, air and sound pollution from a road passing within 200m of it will cause significant damage to the delicate ecosystem. There are many species which live in or alongside the river (brown trout are one example, but there are many more) which are very sensitive to pollution and will definitely be affected.
The other effect will be that the Nidd will be cut off from Bilton by the relief road and the killinghall bypass, and will only be accessible by crossing the roads. This means that the whole area, (Bilton Fields, Nidd Gorge itself and the Greenway (which is crossed by the roads in 2 places) will no longer be the safe recreational space it is now, where dogs and children can run free without risk of being run over, as well as its clean air being a thing of the past.
On the whole this means that the whole area will have been so completely changed and damaged, that it will be unrecognisable as the tranquil, beautiful biodiverse area that is used by thousands of people for their physical and mental wellbeing that we are lucky enough to have today.
Although the detailed route of a relief road would pass near, but not through the Nidd Gorge. There is a difference in published literature by HALT with a flyer that went to many households saying “Destruction of Nidd Gorge”. This differs from the more more recent quote from the group, shown above. It is important to note that although an approximate corridor has been identified for the route, but an approximate corridor that doesn’t pass through the gorge.
A relief road would have a similar volume of traffic to the southern bypass, with around 1,800 cars per hour predicted for both routes by 2035. The southern relief road should be used as an indicator on the impact of the proposed new route.
Conclusion: No, a relief road would not destroy the Nidd Gorge
To take part in the congestion review see https://www.northyorks.gov.uk/harrogate-congestion-engagement
Chris Kitson from HALT said:
I think it’s safe to say that both Bilton Fields (east & west) will be destroyed with this chosen corridor. I would like to add that Don M is on record as saying that he believes ‘there is plenty of room for the gorge, greenway and road to co-exist’. Whilst that may be physically correct the environmental price paid by the gorge and greenway is totally unacceptable and it is scandalous that the proposal has been allowed to get this far. In the past when a western road threatened the environmental beauty of Crimple Valley it was dropped for being too environmentally damaging. The continued pursuance of this route by NYCC shows utter contempt for the 40 years of dedicated conservation work carried out by Bilton Conservation Group and for the community of Bilton. A road would absolutely ruin the experience in the western side of Nidd Gorge for it’s thousands of visitors, and indeed would spoil the experience along its full length due to increased noise pollution. It is an absolute destruction of what we have now. We stand by every word.