Leading North Yorkshire County Council leaders have issued a warning about the costs of the popular vision of a ‘green’ future for transport in Harrogate area.
If the future is to be three park-and-rides, cycle lanes, pedestrianisation and ‘buses over cars’, it isn’t going to be easy and it isn’t going to be cheap.
Speaking at a recent meeting of the Harrogate and Knaresborough Area Constituency Committee at the Cairn Hotel in Harrogate, Coun Don Mackenzie was referring to the possibility of three new park and rides in Harrogate on the outskirts of the town and Knaresborough on the A59, on the A661 Wetherby Road and at the former Dunlopillo site in Pannal.
He said: “We have two park and rides in Scarborough which we are about to close from November and March because of under-use.
“Just to set up a park and ride site can cost half-a-million pounds, never mind the running costs.”
New bar opens in Harrogate town centre
And he pointed to the current difficulties of securing a route and winning local approval for the county council’s desired new cycle path along Otley Road in Harrogate.
Last Thursday’s meeting focused on North Yorkshire County Council’s four-month long public consultation into its Harrogate Congestion Study which received more than 15,000 respondents.
The results of the survey showed the mood of thepublic was for ‘sustainable’ solutions to road congestion and against any idea of a ‘Nidd Gorge’ relief road.
Coun Richard Cooper, the leader of Harrogate Borough Council, said the council would back the county council in a practical way to get “proper” sustainable measures.
Coun Cooper said: “I will put my neck on the block for these things because I believe in them.”
But Coun Mackenzie said a ‘stick’ policy was needed, as well as a ‘carrot’.
He said: “Harrogate had the best bus services in the county but they are less than half full.
“We can’t just look at ways of improving public transport, we need to disincentivise driving cars.”
Andrew Bainbridge, the county council’s leading officer for transport planning, said, although a congestion charge for cars was not on the table, the county council would be looking at reviewing parking charges upwards.
The county council may have ruled out a ‘Nidd Gorge’ relief road but, not only has the option of a Killinghall bypass been retained, the possibility of a new western relief road to Pannal has been added.
Veteran Harrogate councillor Jim Clark, who is chairman of North Yorkshire County Council Council, issued a warning from history, saying rather than that opening a new chapter, pursuing a western relief road would mean a return to failed plotlines of nearly 30 years ago.
With members of local pressure groups such as HALT (Harrogate & Knaresborough Alliance for Less Traffic) and Zero Carbon Harrogate in attendance, he said: “My experience in the 1990s was that there was a lot of discussion about a new bypass but, ultimately, it ran into too much oppostion and it was unfundable.
“The same thing will happen again.
“The solution to traffic congestion is not more roads. The climate of public opinion is changing.”