On Thursday, 16 September 2021, the North Yorkshire County Council Harroagte Area Committee met.
Part of the agenda wasto receive a petition to remove the barriers on Beech Grove in Harrogate.
The changes were made in February and consists of bollards that stop motor vehicle traffic down Beech Grove and down the junction of Lancaster Road. The changes have been made without general public consultation, as a Low Traffic Neighbourhood (LTN)
In a Harrogate Informer survey 82% of respondents said they did not support the changes.
The Harrogate Residents Association tabled a peition of 700 signatures calling for the traffic constraints at Beech Grove, to be removed.
They were given an alloted 5-minutes to present the peition, and Councillor John Mann stopped them talking after that time. The Residents Association have asked us to publish their presentation in full, and for balance we have also included the written presentation from the Harrogate and District Cycle Action Group.
The Beech Grove changes were made without consulation, other than with a local cycling group. The trial period has now been extended.
The Area Committee barely considered the petiton, and didn’t debate Beech Grove during the meeting. Councillor Don McKenzie sought to rubbish both the wording of the peition, and the validity of those that had responded.
Video of the Committee (jump to 2 hrs 42s for the peition)
Beech Grove Petition Presenters – Ann McIntee and Lucy Gardiner
Re: Beech Grove Low Traffic Neighbourhood & Petition
Good morning everyone and thank you for inviting myself Lucy Gardiner and Anna Mcintee, from the Harrogate Residents’ Association, here today to present our petition against the LTN on Beech Grove & Lancaster Road, Harrogate.
You should have all received a copy of this, which bullet points the main concerns the people of this town have, against the scheme. Also, a list of all the individual names and postcodes from those who signed it.
We could stand here today and run through the negative impact that the LTN is having on this town, but you can read this yourselves on the petition and from the many many complaints and comments we know have been sent in to NYCC & HBC, along with letters and articles written to and by local media. OR you could also just sit in the rush hour traffic one morning or afternoon to physically see for yourselves. A journey I have taken for the best part of 10 years now takes me 20 minutes more.
We are however here today to discuss Democracy and our democratic right as residents to have a say in what goes on in our town.
HRA was set up by myself and Anna back in March, to represent this voice of democracy because for far too long, the residents and businesses of this town have NOT been properly informed and consulted about plans, which regularly get railroaded through. The trial LTN is just one example of the many ‘pocket plans’ being sprung upon the people, with little notice, proper consultation or democratic input.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has threatened to reclaim funds given to English councils to set up Low Traffic Neighbourhoods (LTNs) if they fail to consult communities.
The Department for Transport (DfT) said the Cabinet Minister, “has been clear future funding allocations will be reduced, and clawbacks could also be imposed” where local authorities do not take into account the views of residents, businesses and emergency services when developing schemes.
One of the big issues regularly expressed by many residents, regarding this LTN was the lack of notice, consultation, and public engagement from NYCC & HBC, who are simply not engaging with the wider Harrogate community about this and many other schemes.
On the 15th February the residents were shocked when the planters appeared. They did receive letters, dated 1st February but received those letters over a week later, some just days before the LTN ‘trial’ was imposed.
The residents were NOT consulted prior to this.
However, we do know that the cycle groups were consulted. It was confirmed by Paul Ryan, Project Engineer for NYCC Highways and Transportation in an email dated 25th May that the “County Council meets with Harrogate Cycle Groups on a number of occasions a year to discuss their concerns, aspirations and suggestions for schemes across the Harrogate district.”
In a Stray Ferret article dated 4th February 2021, before residents received their letters, Kevin Douglas the chairman of Harrogate District Cycle Action, confirmed that “We were consulted on a number of options.”
Paul Ryan also wrote in his email; “I should stress that they have not been consulted to the effect that they have decided or influenced the decision over the current measures in place”
However, at the Harrogate & Knaresborough Area Constituency Committee Meeting, 18th March 2021, Louise Neill, Transport Leader of the Transport Planning Team confirmed, when asked, how they decided on this particular location for the first LTN trial, that it was ‘identified’ by Harrogate Cycle Groups.
‘Working together to promote Active Travel’ is a document on the government website, which states that local authorities work with schools and workplaces on travel planning to promote safe modes of active travel to & from settings on a daily basis. To also work with enterprise partnerships to ensure that the economic value of active travel is considered in local developments, and demonstrate how it contributes to the functioning and prosperity of the local areas. It also states it is important to engage people with dementia and their carers in the planning, development and evaluation of the urban realm.
We would like to see the evidence that HBC & NYCC have worked with the schools, businesses and carers in the design of the Active Travel Schemes? As detailed in this document on the government website.
We ask, why was it ONLY the Cycling Groups, who were consulted? How do NYCC decide which groups they engage with to discuss such important decisions that affect us all?
There are many community groups in Harrogate, and we have spoken to most of them, ALL of whom were NOT consulted at all, including Disability Action Yorkshire or their Think Access Coordinator, who were concerned about the limitation of access created by the LTN and recommended someone should come out to site and speak to us, the council and with any residents, who are struggling with the already imposed restrictions. Nor were the Stray Defence Association, Civic Society or any business or resident groups. There are also many schools in Harrogate, many of which have been impacted by the LTN due to more traffic now being forced onto their roads and they also were NOT consulted about the sudden road closures.
However, it is the residents on Beech Grove, Lancaster Road and surrounding roads who are the ones who are directly affected and therefore should have been the priority when “concerns, aspirations and suggestions” were being discussed and decided. Especially as there are many elderly residents, who rely on their cars, taxis and other means of transport and who don’t rely on social media platforms for information and who should have been informed with much more notice.
Where is the democracy in asking one BIASED group??
To add insult to injury, the 6 months temporary ‘trial’ was suddenly extended for a further 12 months, yet again with NO notice and NO consultation. It was just confirmed by Cllr Don McKenzie in a response to a letter of complaint from a resident and later in the Stray Ferret.
Where is the transparency from the councils?
The real truth is that this scheme is a fait accompli, with the long-term reason stated repeatedly by Paul Ryan in his email that “Clearly, part of the reason for the scheme is the link to the Otley Road cycle route and also the proposed Victoria Avenue ATF scheme.” And “the intention behind the scheme is outlined to provide a link between the pending Otley Road cycle scheme” But has this been made clear?
The Otley Road shared cycle lanes have been an unmitigated disaster, before they have even begun. They have taken 3 years to come to fruition because of bad planning from the start, with the ‘exchange’ of Stray land still not even signed off and yet they begin the works next week in the Autumn Term when all the schools have just gone back.
The truth is, Beech Grove is now required as a link to the Otley Road cycle lanes because, as things stand, Otley Road cycle lanes achieve nothing and goes nowhere and are a complete waste of tax payers money. Yet another example of disconnected, poor pocket planning.
At the ‘Active Travel Fund Consultation’ 29th March Year and also confirmed by Paul Ryan in his email ‘no formal detailed scheme was ever developed,’ implementing the LTN was agreed without provision to ease congestion on the surrounding roads with ‘more modelling work and a detailed design to follow.’ How can this be ok, after the scheme was imposed?
The LTN is classed as an ‘experimental order’ with ‘active monitoring.’ there is very little indication of statistics being collated before and during the trial thus far. We are sure the public would like to see evidence of the contract with the National traffic survey contractor (Matrix) who we are told NYCC uses, to undertake these traffic surveys and indeed the cost of this.
While we are pleased to hear “all comments received from directly affected residents and the wider road user will be collated and considered” BUT the deadline for these comments, which was the 14th August 2021, was never clearly stated to anyone. It was, in fact, because the Cycle Action group’s webpage advertised this date, when they also asked people to a ‘copy and paste’ a letter to send in, agreeing with the scheme. That was when we decided to create our petition, knowing many had already written in but also that many simply did not have the time to write or indeed feel their concerns would be listened to.
Never before has it been so easy to connect with the electorate. Via social media platforms, press, modern technology and the traditional methods and yet, here we are, with a council who are clearly REACTIVE and not PROACTIVE.
In less than one week we were able to engage with and get signatures from over 600 people. Can you imagine the numbers we would have achieved with more notice, funding, and resources, such as the council have at their disposal?
If it wasn’t for groups such as the HRA and other similar voluntary organisations, informing the residents and businesses and giving them a voice, then these projects would just slip through. Or is that in fact the councillors plan?
There is no denying and the majority of people agree, we all need to work together and change our habits to reduce our carbon emissions and the congestion in Harrogate, which is on the increase due to the large volume of unsustainable housing, being passed and built.
The Active Travel Fund is designed to improve cycling and walking provision, as well as increase frequency and capacity of bus, tram, and light rail services. All in an attempt to reduce congestion.
ALL these forms of transport need to be in considered. Instead, NYCC are only consulting and focusing on cycling provisions. Beech Grove is a wide road with wide pavements with West Park Stray adjoining it. It is perfectly safe and easy to cross for pedestrians and always has been. So, why can’t it be a multi-purpose as it always has been? Why make people double their journey e.g. One route increases from 0.2miles on a quiet traffic road to 0.4miles on a busy congested road and roundabout?
If the council really want to improve congestion, they firstly need to stop allowing developers to build these unsustainable amount of houses, which are not affordable for ‘low paid workers’ which is what Cllr Richard Cooper claims to justify them, so they will still need to commute into town. The reality is, a ‘cycling incentive pack’ is not going to and hasn’t stopped, each household having 2 possibly 3 cars and who need access to the schools, work, appointments, the town, shops etc.
Increasing cycling from 1% of people to 1.5% will have very little impact on congestion. They need to simply start by subsidising more, electric buses for ALL secondary school children, with improved bus routes and services to all areas.
We are here because we want the BEST long term, well thought through, well consulted, connected plan for Harrogate to cater for ALL. It is only when NYCC & HBC engage properly with the majority of people, businesses, and the groups that represent them, that this can be achieved.
Councils must submit monitoring reports on the schemes 6 to 12 months after introducing them, highlighting how they have been modified based on local feedback. We shall look forward to hearing these modifications.
Harrogate and District Cycle Action
To the Area Committee Councillors
We are aware that you will be receiving a petition relating to the removal of the Beech Grove LTN and asking for your support to end the trial scheme.
Unfortunately due to long-standing commitments none of our Executive are able to attend to present this response to the Area committee and so we have asked that a copy be given to Members and for it to be read out at the meeting.
I am writing to you on behalf of Harrogate and District Cycle Action (HDCA) asking that you reject the proposed action in the petition and retain the modal filter until August 2022 under the terms of the DfT scheme and then assess the effectiveness of it when the major parts of the cycle schemes for Otley Road and Victoria Avenue are completed and operational.
Whilst the petition cites a number of reasons for NYCC to remove the barriers there is no evidence that several of the points are valid and supported by the Agencies who are referenced in the petition.
Whilst it is recognised that the introduction of the modal filter has required some changes in behaviour the new arrangements have not been to the detriment of those who require access to the area.
However there are significant benefits to the change. The street is quieter and calmer and there are less traffic movements leading to a better atmosphere.
One of the biggest benefits is to pedestrians (including dog walkers) and runners crossing from Lancaster Road to the Stray. People cross throughout the day to and from the Stray in a safe environment, as they don’t have to cede priority to any vehicles and the speed and volume of traffic needing to use the area is reduced.
The new arrangements recognise that Beech Grove is a residential street and should not be seen as a through route for traffic. By introducing a modal filter it achieves the purpose of making it a quiet area and not one full of cars using it as a busy through route.
In addition the modal filters have transformed the experience of cycling on Beech Grove and removed nearly all the traffic danger. The route is well-used by people on bikes, and use will increase when the whole Otley Road Cycleway is built to the south, and the Victoria Avenue and Station Parade cycle facilities are built to the East.
Beech Grove is a key link in the cycle network and not to retain it would mean that the spending of money on cycle facilities on Otley Road, Victoria Avenue, and Station Parade would be wasted as it would create a broken link in the network.
The County Council, in their Local Cycling and Walking Improvement Plan(LCWIP) have committed to creating a coherent cycle network that links a number of key arterial routes into the Town Centre and the current schemes that are ongoing will only achieve this if Beech Grove modal filters remain in place.
We recognise the concerns of residents of Victoria Road, that some through traffic has been displaced from Beech Grove. We believe that some through traffic has been displaced but not as much as previously used Beech Grove. Most of the through traffic using Victoria Road is southbound drivers reluctant to use the A61 one-way system. We are therefore very pleased that the County is going to make the Victoria Road/Otley Road junction entry only, and we believe that will remove most of the through traffic.
Finally, NYCC is committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the County and to achieve this has to reduce car usage by provision of alternative transport modes and better public transport.
The cycling schemes being implemented are part of the strategy to do this but to encourage people to use the cycleways they must be traffic free and safe and without the Beech Grove link it is unlikely that any significant increase in cycling will be achieved to help with the aim of reducing car journeys on this route from Cardale park into the Town Centre.
In conclusion, I would ask that the Area committee look at the introduction of the modal filters on Beech Grove as part of the wider cycle Network schemes and as such should be retained as a key link in that network.
It is clear that it is far too soon to judge the effectiveness of this intervention before other parts of the Cycle scheme are completed and as such I would urge the Area Committee to take no action on the petition and retain the trial modal filters until August 2022 which can be done under the DfT guidance and further assess them once the full schemes are in place.
Thank you for taking time to read this submission and look forward to hearing the outcome of your deliberations.
Chair, Harrogate and District Cycle Action