Will North Yorkshire's new transport plan bring necessary change?

It is hoped the county councils new transport plan could help cut congestion in Harrogate.

It is hoped the county councils new transport plan could help cut congestion in Harrogate.

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Improving east-west links to help the economy are at the heart of a new transport plan for North Yorkshire.

Improving east-west links to help the economy are at the heart of a new transport plan for North Yorkshire.

The new plan highlights long journey times as one of the major barriers facing the county’s economy with workers struggling to access job opportunities and companies reluctant to invest in “peripheral areas of the county”.

While the document commits the county to prioritising improved east-west links, including upgrading the A59 around Harrogate, it also warns that the solutions “are expensive costing tens or even hundreds of millions of pounds” and will need Government support.

The county is setting aside £300,000 to fund work that will produce proposals designed to secure Government cash.

Coun Don Mackenzie, North Yorkshire’s executive member for highways, said: “The plan makes clear that high-quality transport and efficient connectivity are essential for a robust economy. North-south links are much improved in recent years with the complete upgrading to motorway status of the A1(M) now imminent. On the other hand, east-west routes remain below par, the current closure of the A59 between Harrogate and Skipton providing topical evidence of this deficiency.

“We should welcome, therefore, the plan’s identification of potential improvement of the A64 between York and Scarborough, and of the A59 especially in the Harrogate area and at Kex Gill.”

The Local Transport Plan, which was approved by the county council’s executive committee on Tuesday, sets out transport strategies for the next 30 years.

Coun Mackenzie said: “The plan considers transport at all levels. For highway maintenance, for example, this will range from how the council will decide which individual potholes to repair to which bypasses need resurfacing. For improvements it will range from how and where the county council will install dropped kerbs to help wheelchair users to cross the road, to where it plans to build new road schemes.”

In preparing the plan, the authority launched a public consultation, with the results highlighting that boosting the economy, safety, access to essential services and the impact of transport on the environment remained important.

Coun Mackenzie said: “A significant number of responses came from cycling groups and cyclists in the Harrogate area, a sign perhaps of the effect of the Tour de France on the residents of that town, and the growing importance of sustainable transport in our largest urban settlement which is seeing greater levels of congestion.”

The plan will now go to full council on February 17.