Taxpayers pay £100k for changes to controversial Leeds Road junction

Gridlocked traffic on Leeds Road.

Gridlocked traffic on Leeds Road.

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Taxpayers have footed a bill of more than £100,000 for improvements to the controversial junction near Marks and Spencer on Harrogate’s Leeds Road since the store was completed in 2014.

The figure, which has been obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, has been labelled “the cost of getting it wrong” by campaigner Tony Medri.

While the president of Harrogate Chamber of Trade has dubbed it “the cost of not listening to residents”.

However, North Yorkshire County Council’s executive member for highways Don Mackenzie has defended the works, which he says have been carried out at the request of residents and

traders who called for improvements to the junction, which has caused traffic gridlock.

He said: “These improvements took place in the second half of last year and they were very much the result of recommendations we got following a public meeting held in Oatlands.

“I made a promise that I would resolve the problem of the Leeds Road junction because they said it wasn’t working as efficiently as it should be.

“Following the suggestions I sat down with officers and we agreed a programme of improvements.”

The figure, which totals £100,552.49, includes money spent on the Leeds Road A61/Leadhall Lane junction and local vicinity since the completion of works funded by the developers responsible for the Marks and Spencer site. The sum includes changes to signalling, planning, road layout, markings, costs of contractors and staff time.

Tony Medri, chairman of the Oatlands Traders’ committee, said: “It is the cost of getting it wrong and they are not going to get it right however much money they throw at this.

“The bottom line is there will be more to come.

“The one other thing that should never be forgotten is the actual cost to the businesses in that area and the people that live there - how do you put a figure on that?”

Sandra Doherty, president of the town’s Chamber of Trade, giving her own opinion and not the collective view of the chamber, said: “It would have been better had there been more consultation before they spent the money in the first place.

“We as a town knew what we wanted there. I don’t think anybody listened and the cost they have had to pay out is the cost of not listening to residents.”

Coun Mackenzie said around £70,000, had been spent on a new digital traffic light system at the junction and a further £20,000 had paid for improvements, including dropped curbs.

He said: “While £100,000 is a sizable amount of taxpayers money, I believe it is money well-spent.

“That junction is working much more efficiently now.

“I’m not aware of any further improvement works.

“We will continue to respond to levels of traffic but at the moment I am happy with the performance of that junction.”