Harrogate council's leader has hailed the recent anti-Nidd Gorge relief road walk saying he's never seen anything like it in his time in local politics.
The turnout was such that Harrogate Borough Council leader Coun Richard Cooper told the Harrogate Advertiser he’d never seen anything like Andrew Jones MP's recent ‘sustainable transport walk’ along the Nidderdale Greenway in his 20 years in local politics.
Coun Cooper said: “In my 20 years in local politics I have never seen such a turnout asking action to be on a specific issue.
“It shows that the public is passionate about the countryside around the Nidd Gorge and also passionate about improving our environment by backing sustainable transport measures.”
Estimates of the numbers taking part in the four-mile walk from the bottom of Bilton Lane to Ripley varied from nearly 400 to upwards of 500.
Tory councillors from the Harrogate district turned up in force in the warm sunshine with at least seven of them arriving in their walking shoes.
But the event turned out to be multi-party with representatives from across the political spectrum and residents groups, in particular, HALT (The Harrogate & Knaresborough Alliance for Less Traffic).
Traffic congestion: What the town's MP says
Addressing the walk before setting off, the MP whose idea it was in the first place said the event was about more than opposing the idea of a relief road near Nidd Gorge, though that was important.
Mr Jones said: “This wasn’t only a walk by those opposing a relief road in this area – it was a show of support for sustainable transport measures.
“And that is the great thing about the congestion study and why I thank North Yorkshire County Council for launching it – it means we can choose a better way. Sustainable transport will require significant investment not only in terms of cash but also in terms of changes to our travel behaviour.”
Traffic congestion: What Harrogate campaigners think
The MP’s thoughts were warmly welcomed by members of HALT, whose distinctive green, white and red campaign T-shirts were selling like hot cakes.
HALT’s Chris Kitson said: “The walk highlighted what a great, green space we have on the north side of Harrogate: a place for recreation for all types of people, young and old, and a traffic-free escape for people to enjoy.
“It was a vision of the future - providing we are successful in defeating the ridiculous road plan.
“North Yorkshire County Council has said a road through Bilton Fields is somehow ‘not close to Nidd Gorge’. I think all of the walkers would say it is nonsense.”
Traffic congestion: What the Lib Dems say
Harrogate and Knaresborough's Lib Dems have also expressed concern about the possible impact of any relief road near the greenway.
Coun Geoff Webber, leader of the Lib Dem group on North Yorkshire County Council said last December: "We still have grave concerns about the environmental impact of any inner relief road route on the Nidd Gorge and Greenway.
"However, we support public consultation on any proposals that North Yorkshire's Conservative Executive eventually decide to submit to the Government for funding."
Traffic congestion: What the public consultation is
The county council is running a mainly online public consultation with a list of questions asking residents' opinions on traffic problems and possible solutions.
Running until Monday, July 8, the public engagement follows nearly two years of discussions, meetings and two separate Harrogate Congestion Study reports by WSP, the powerful international agency which offers a consultancy service, as well as providing transportation and infrastructure engineering.
The study has identified two possible packages of solutions which are on the county council's website but the the public survey's questions do not explicitly relate to the packages.
One package is comprised of a raft of ‘green’ measures to discourage car use in Harrogate, while the other includes more some sustainable measures plus also the possibility of a new Killinghall bypass and a new ‘relief road’ through residential Bilton and Nidd Gorge.
The results of the public consultation are likely to be reflected in the county council's future applications for funding from the Government to tackle traffic congestion in Harrogate and Knaresborough.