Harrogate traffic: Could a new £20m bypass at Killinghall provide an answer to congestion?

Villagers in one of Harrogate’s most developed areas of recent years have long believed they have been getting a raw deal.

By Graham Chalmers
Tuesday, 26th January 2021, 4:22 pm
Updated Tuesday, 26th January 2021, 4:28 pm

Such has been the volume of new housing in Killinghall over recent years, residents have complained of feeling “under siege” by the constant developments.

As the lorries have rumbled through its increasingly busy roads, the pressure to build a new bypass to tackle the growing traffic congestion has also built up.

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The village of Killinghall to the north of Harrogate has been described by some councillors as the 'most over-developed village in the county'.

North Yorkshire County Council backed the idea in its Harrogate Congestion Study - the only example of new road building in a report dominated by plans for sustainable transport.

That was two years ago.

Now voices are growing louder for a business case to be drawn up for a new Killinghall bypass.

North Yorkshire County Council, the county’s transport authority, has confirmed this would likely be a £20 million project.

Some residents and councillors would like to see a £20m bypass constructed around the village of Killinghall to reduce the daily amount of traffic.

But local councillor Michael Harrison, who represents the Killinghall and Hampsthwaite ward, says traffic is not something the village can solve itself and green measures alone will not ease the problem.

He said:“No amount of modal shift to different transport methods is going to solve the issue of relentless traffic. Killinghall has more than doubled in size and most of its traffic is through-traffic - not Killinghall traffic - and it’s not a problem that the village can solve itself.

“I think the bypass should be added to the major schemes list and whatever work needs to be done to consider what that would look like, including any change to the projected route, that should go ahead.

“There are lots of ideas for active and sustainable travel and in some of those I am supportive. But I am concerned that there is an underlying theme that anything we suggest as a council that aids the driver shouldn’t be done.

“I don’t want to raise expectations that a Killinghall bypass is definitely going to happen but I do want to keep the idea alive.”

Villagers who got in touch with the Harrogate Advertiser were mostly supportive of the idea.

James Beal said: “The village will have doubled in size in five years. There are no facilities to shop or socialise and the main roads suffer from significant speed and volume issues. A child will be seriously injured or worse if measures aren’t taken to reduce traffic soon.”

Bruce Fowler said: “A bypass is a great idea. It will make a massive difference to Killinghall but we need to put in more sustainable cycle tracks that get us into Harrogate safely, too.”

One of the main drivers of the Harrogate Congestion Study, Coun Don Mackenzie, says the process towards securing a Killinghall bypass will not be quick, easy or cheap - and Government money will be needed.

The North Yorkshire Couny Council’s executive member for transport told the Harrogate Advertiser: “We are not yet at the stage of drawing up a business case. First, a decision will be taken within the next few weeks by the county council’s executive members on the way forward, taking into account the comments made by councillors.

“If taken further, the scheme would likely be added to the list of major transport schemes held by the county council pending future funding opportunities. My personal estimate of a likely cost is £20 million.”

But any idea of adding the bypass proposal to the county council’s major scheme lis is likely to be resisted by green campaigners who say any move to improve roads in an era when the district’s carbon emissions targets should be taking priority is a step in the wrong direction.

There’s also questions over the route of a new bypass and whether it would actually solve the problem and whether it would be value for money.

Campaigners are claiming the original idea for the route of any new road had been undermined by recent house building between Harrogate and Killinghall.

They say those travelling south to Leeds from north of Killinghall currently using the B6161 would not want to use it since it will add more time to their journey.

But Coun Mackenzie does acknowledge there may have to be changes to the route, if it goes ahead.

He said: “I am aware that there has been a great deal of residential development between Harrogate and Killinghall on a small part of what was the original route of the northern relief road.

This would require a minor re-alignment which is perfectly feasible.

“The likely alignment would be from the A59 at the junction with the B6161 to the A61 north of Ripley.”

The closer to reality Killinghall bypass becomes, the more questions are likely to be raised over whether as new road is part of the solution or part of the problem.

One reader’s views seem to sum up the dilemma.

Sally Wootton lives on the main road in Killinghall and can hear - and feel - the huge lorries speeding past her house causing it to shake.

She said: “A bypass would be wonderful. But the actual route is a problem. It would be so sad to lose any of the beautiful countryside to the west of the village. So many of us have discovered new footpaths during our lockdown walks.”

There are hints that a Killinghall bypass may become the next flash point in a growing clash in Harrogate between environment and traffic aspirations.

Harrogate’s greens group are already expressing alarm at prospects of a new multi-million pound road to alleviate congestion in this once-quiet village lying three miles north of the town.

Speaking earlier this month at a meeting of county councillors in the Harrogate and Knaresborough Area Constituency Committee, pressure group Zero Carbon Harrogate said almost any solution should be considered before a bypass.

Rod Beardshall, chairman of Zero Carbon Harrogate’s transport working group, said: “Residents of Killinghall would understandably love to see less traffic on the A61 through the village but a bypass would induce more traffic overall, encourage more development, destroy more countryside, could damage the Nidderdale Greenway and critically construction would create huge carbon emissions.

“Consider also that any increase in traffic in the Killinghall area will go somewhere, much of it into Harrogate.

“All non-road solutions to Killinghall traffic should be considered before a bypass; lower speed limits, vehicle weight limits, road narrowing, safe cycle links from Killinghall to the Greenway.

“We would support legislation that required non-residents to pay for the right to drive through villages such as Killinghall, especially at peak times.

“It would be a much more environmentally beneficial solution than a bypass.

“It would also be flexible, unlike a bypass which would be permanent even when rendered irrelevant by progress.”

The Harrogate Congestion Study

After extensive public consultation which received 15,000 responses in 2019, North Yorkshire County Council published the Harrogate Congestion Study identifying a range of potential measures including:

* A Local Cycling Infrastructure Plan;

* Bus priority ‘corridors’;

* Park and rides in Harrogate and Knaresborough;

* A new Killinghall bypass.