EXCLUSIVE - ‘Tesco traffic chaos’ - join the debate

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A new Tesco traffic scheme branded “utter madness” by furious campaigners could see Skipton Road made one way in part – for up to 10 months.

The supermarket giant has re-vealed the full scale of change needed tobuild its New Park store, with plans for new roundabouts, traffic diver-sions through Killinghall, and rebuilding Skipton Road twice as wide.

But outraged residents are calling for a full consultation on the plans which they say will only result in “complete mayhem.”

“This is a disaster waiting to happen,” said Killinghall resident Bob Jones. “It’s going to be absolute murder. It will be 10 months of hell – followed by traffic jams forever.”

The plans would see:

- Skipton Road made one way in part for up to 10 months, as it’s rebuilt twice as wide

- Westbound traffic divert-ed through Killinghall for this time

- Skipton Road completely closed to traffic on alternate weekends

- Oak Beck bridge demol-ished and rebuilt twice as wide

- A new roundabout on Skip-ton Road and new traffic lights on Ripon Road.

l What do you think? Join the debate - email ruby.kitchen@jpress.co.uk, call 01423 707509 or comment below.

THE FULL REPORT

It’s taken more than a decade of planning wrangles, fierce debates and cautious negotiations. Now, 12 years after Tesco bought a plot of land in Harrogate, work is to start on its new superstore - with the first step to be rearranging the roads networks. RUBY KITCHEN reports.

Tesco has revealed the full scale of change needed to accommodate its coming New Park store - with plans in to re-route traffic around western Harrogate.

The scheme - revealed in its traffic management plan which is now under review - would see Skipton Road doubled in width near New Park to accommodate four lanes of traffic.

Tesco, recognising it would cause some disruption, says this work is absolutely necessary and will give Harrogate a much improved road network.

But furious residents say they are staggered at the plans, which would see the busy road - already the second most congested in the country - made one-way for up to 10 months.

‘mayhem’

“It will be absolute mayhem,” said outraged Killinghall resident Bob Jones. “The problems we saw when M&S was built are going to be a tea party compared to this.

“People will seek out shortcuts to avoid this traffic nightmare - Killinghall, Jennyfields and the Duchy will all become rat-runs.

“Something needs to be done. This issue, of traffic, is absolutely key to the survival of Harrogate.”

Tesco’s traffic management suggestions, now being consulted on by the Highways Authority at North Yorkshire County Council (NYCC) would see;

- A new roundabout built on Skipton Road, with the road width doubled to four lanes near New Park roundabout.

- Oak Beck bridge demolished and rebuilt, twice as wide.

- Skipton Road made one-way in part for up to 10 months to allow for this to happen.

- West-bound traffic diverted through Killinghall and down Otley Road for this time.

- Skipton Road completely closed to traffic on alternate weekends for the duration of the work.

- New traffic lights installed on Ripon Road for a second entrance.

Tesco says it has been in discussion with NYCC highways for “some time” over the plans, and had carried out extensive surveys to consider the impact.

Its preferred option, documents revealed, would results in delays of up to 412 hours at the New Park roundabout, with queues of up to 22 cars at rush hour.

“While there will be some disruption caused by the highways works required, the outcome will give Harrogate a much improved road layout and unlock investment in the highways network that would not otherwise be possible,” said spokesman Mark Thomas. “We appreciate all concerns.

“Traffic disruption would be temporary and we would manage it as effectively as possible in collaboration with the Highways Authority as well as through keeping residents informed.

“Ultimately, the highways works will mean traffic will flow much better through Harrogate.

“Without the highways investment made possible by the store, there would not be the opportunity to make the changes required to improve traffic flow in this part of the town.”

Tesco is still looking at the timescale for these highways works, he added, but documents published online as part of the planning application say work would start on December 10, halting fully for five days around the Great Yorkshire Show. The plans say the new Tesco superstore will be launched on October 19, 2015.

A final decision is to be taken by a Harrogate Borough Council officer under delegated powers, and Tesco has said it is to set up public meetings to show residents what is planned.

But there are now calls for a full public consultation on the issue so that residents can have their say.

“There’s got to be a proper consultation,” said Mr Jones, of Knox Mill Lane. “I can guarantee that the residents in Killinghall will be up in arms about this.”

VIEWS FROM POLITICS AND BUSINESS

Harrogate and Knaresborough MP Andrew Jones said residents needed to have a say. “Ten months of disruption seem excessive.

“I am looking for confirmation that lessons from past problems have been learned, that every effort will be made to bring forward the end date for the works and that there will be a full and proper consultation with residents before work begins. Local residents are the people who know best what effect changes to the roads near their homes will have.

“It is their views that need to be at the fore before and during the changes.”

Brian Dunsby, chief executive of Harrogate Chamber, has long been a critic of the scheme.

“This traffic management plan will simply create total chaos and gridlock across the north west side of Harrogate, with tremendous queues of cars and lorries.

“Even when it is finished traffic will not flow freely through two traffic island and a new set of traffic lights less than 100 metres apart.”

Mr Dunsby is calling for Tesco to create a new roundabout on the site of the Little Wonder pub.

Coun Richard Cooper, leader of Harrogate Borough Council, said a full consultation is needed. “If roads are to be improved then it is inevitable that disruption will occur. It is important that the public are consulted. I am pleased that there are to be public meetings but these must be a proper exchange of views. It isn’t adequate simply to hold a meeting for Tesco to tell local people what they intend to do. They need to listen and adapt.

I will be writing to the chief executive of Tesco asking him to commit to a proper and meaningful consultation involving questionnaires to nearby properties and businesses and public meetings.

New Park ward councillor, Matthew Webber, (Lib Dem) has long been in support of the Tesco store.

“I welcome the news that the work on the Tesco store site in New Park is due to start by the end of this year,” he said.

“Whilst I appreciate that a project of this size will cause disruption during the construction period the major part of the highways work is to replace Oak Beck Bridge that is long overdue.

“Some years ago the bridge had to be closed by NYCC for a period of time to allow essential structural repairs following a survey and this way the work is done and paid for by Tesco and not the tax payers.”

THE TESCO STORE

l The new Tesco will be on the 3.5ha site of the old gas works on the corner of Skipton Road and Ripon Road.

l It would be a superstore, measuring 7,345sq m, built on columns above an underground car park, and housing a 24-hour recycling facility.

l The building plans show a contemporary design, with a curved roof topped with five micro-windturbines.

l The store would be open 24-hours a day, apart from Sundays when it would be open 11am to 5pm.

l Store deliveries would be unrestricted, and it would provide 360 full and part-time jobs.

l When the planning application was heard in 2009, 168 letters of objection were sent in, and 150 letters of support.

l A survey by Tesco, leafleting 1,000 of its closest neighbours, found that 68 per cent were in favour, and 21 per cent against.

l Tesco agreed to give £1.57m to Harrogate as part of the planning agreement, replacing paving and lights, signs, trees, and a water fountain, as well as benches and bike park hoops.

l Tesco has said previously the store could draw 20,000 customers a week, around 4,000 cars a day, and 10 to 12 HGV deliveries.

TIMELINE

FEBRUARY 2007

Residents Richie Molloy and Dave Burns formed the “No To Tesco” group to try to halt the scheme.

MARCH 2008

Harrogate became the last postcode in the UK without a Tesco supermarket, after the retailer bought stores on several remote Scottish isles.

LATE 2008

Public consultation by Tesco showed that 68 per cent were in favour, 21 per cent against and 11 per cent undecided.

SEPTEMBER 2009

Tesco unveiled revised plans, with a 25 per cent small store, greener credentials, and a wider access road.

FEBRUARY 2010

The consultation closed on debate.

SEPTEMBER 2011

Planning permission was granted - with council members voting 11 to 3 - with one abstention, to pass the application.

AUGUST 2013

Plans were put on hold again to allow Harrogate to accommodate the opening stages of the Tour de France.

AUGUST 2014

Tesco confirmed it will open by Christmas 2015, adding that its plans were back on track after the Tour de France.

TESCO’S OPTIONS FOR TACKLING THE TRAFFIC ISSUE

When drawing up its traffic management plan, Tesco had considered three options which would allow for a new bridge to be built over Oak Beck on Skipton Road.

These included, as well as the preferred option of a one-way system, setting up traffic lights either side of the bridge or on each of the three arms of New Park roundabout.

The first scheme - with temporary traffic lights either side of the bridge - would likely cause queues up to 54-cars long, report documents submitted as part of planning application say.

“In our view the close proximity of the temporary signals on Skipton Road to the new Park Roundabout will cause significant additional queuing on all approaches to the roundabout and possibly result in grid lock at the junction in peak periods,” the report said.

The second option - with temporary traffic lights on each of the three arms of the roundabout - would likely lead to “significant levels of queuing and delays”.

In this instance, the survey found, queues could be up to 337 cars long.

It’s preferred option - creating the one way system with diversions through Killinghall - would see queues of up to 22 cars long, Tesco said, but was the best option to keep delays to a minimum.

“Unfortunately it is almost certain that the works and in particular the highways and bridge construction activities will have a disruptive affect on the road network,” Tesco’s application states.

“In order to minimise the extent of the disruption it is the intention to apply additional communication measures to make the general public aware of the timing and nature of the works.

“It is also the intention to provide advanced warning signs on the approaches to the work allowing road users to follow alternative routes away from the affected section.”