Explained - Harrogate council's response to traffic congestion

Signs of controversy - One of the Harrogate sustainable transport campaign group's banners against a 'Nidd Gorge relief road'.
Signs of controversy - One of the Harrogate sustainable transport campaign group's banners against a 'Nidd Gorge relief road'.

It may be more than a month until the results of public consultation on traffic congestion in Harrogate and Knaresborough are revealed by North Yorkshire County Council, but most of Harrogate's leading politicians don't seem to be inclined to wait to see what the analysis of the 14, 896 responses.

So what do the town's MP or council leader think about both the controversial consultation and what should be done about the traffic problem?

Guide - what happens next on Harrogate traffic congestion

Traffic congestion: Andrew Jones, MP for Harrogate and Knaresborough
"This issue has mobilised the public like never before. We have had consultations in the past – on the relocation of the Crown Post Office, on the use of the Stray for events and on the relocation of Harrogate Borough Council for Crescent Gardens among many others.
"But I do not believe we have ever seen such a large response.

“While we do not know the outcome yet, if my postbag is anything to go by, there will be a significant number of objections to the relief road proposal.
"But the Congestion Study was not just about a relief road; it was about sustainable transport measures too. That is why it was such a valuable exercise in measuring public opinion.

“So I hope that the sustainable transport options now come to the fore and all those who opposed the relief road are motivated to work with both our local councils to make a success of those options.
"I will certainly put my efforts behind those who want to make Harrogate and Knaresborough beacons of sustainable transport.
"Not only will sustainable transport options beat the queues but they will also help reduce the emissions of exhaust fumes making our air cleaner and healthier.”

Traffic congestion: Coun Richard Cooper, Harrogate Borough Council leader
"My view from a long while back was that the so-called relief road was a non-starter.
"It wouldn't do the job it was expected to do and no one would ever provide the cash to build it and it would wreck the environment around the Nidd Gorge.

"The County Council said quite clearly that they need to consult on all the options to prove to the government that they had investigated the issue thoroughly. If they did not do so they said that the government would not provide money for any of the options.

"We have seen the reports from consultants that in my view don't provide evidence to support the construction of the relief road near the Nidd Gorge. We have had the consultation.
"Fifteen thousand have responded and it seems likely the overwhelming majority have rejected the relief road proposal. I expect that the relief road proposal, in those circumstances, won't go any further.

"The proposal by the Harrogate Bus Company for a park and ride is one Harrogate Borough Council is squarely behind.
"It may be expensive but I believe achievable as it utilises the existing bus services.
"To give buses priority it will mean that tarmac currently devoted to cars will be devoted to buses.
"This will be difficult for some but it is time to stop talking about sustainable transport and time to start seriously implementing it."

Traffic congestion: Harrogate Borough Council's offical response
Harrogate Borough Council has formally submitted its response to North Yorkshire County Council’s (NYCC) Knaresborough and Harrogate congestion study.
In a letter to Councillor Don Mackenzie, NYCC’s executive member for access, Harrogate Borough Council explains it does not support the idea of a new relief road.

Instead, the council calls for investment in sustainable transport measures, particularly those focussed on dedicated cycling infrastructure and public transport improvements.
The letter also acknowledges a potential future need for demand management, but makes it clear the council does not favour any congestion charge as set out in the NYCC consultation.

The borough council believes there is potential to unlock road capacity by improving some junctions across the district, similar to a recent scheme in Knaresborough.
The letter makes it clear that Harrogate Borough Council is committed to working with the county council to tackle congestion in the two towns.

It suggests a proactive action plan should be developed with the private sector which would bring the biggest benefits to the future of sustainable transport.
The council’s submission to the study includes a series of short, medium and long-term measures which it believes have the potential to reduce congestion.

It also offers to support the county council’s work to prepare a strategic transport policy for Harrogate and Knaresborough.
The letter acknowledges the fact new road infrastructure may be required in future if investment in sustainable transport does not encourage enough people out of their cars and onto two wheels, public transport or walking.

Traffic congestion: Coun Phil Ireland, Harrogate Borough Council's cabinet member for sustainable transport
“Based on the evidence I’ve seen, I do not support the idea of a relief road.
“Instead of rushing to lay down new tarmac, there should be greater investment in measures which encourage people out of their cars.

“New cycling infrastructure and improved public transport – along with changes to some junctions – will help tackle the congestion which blights Knaresborough and Harrogate.
“It will also help us realise our ambitions on carbon reduction and climate change.

“I believe a joint approach with us, the county council, other transport authorities and the private sector will have the maximum benefit.”

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