Traffic solution 1937 style

Judging by recent correspondence, Advertiser readers continue to be concerned with the related questions of the town’s crowded roads and the building of further houses, and I regret to advise readers that I do not have a realistic solution to either problem - I have several unrealistic solutions, but let that pass! So far as house building is concerned, there have been several waves of house building which occurred every few years, all having in common the fact that they were the result of a development plan. It is almost as if people believe that if a building is put up in accordance to a plan, it has a sanctity denied to a building put up without a plan

In Harrogate’s case, the net result of all these decades of plans, has been to bloat the town to the extent it can no longer operate as a single community, but has become a centre surrounded by several almost independent satellites. Can anyone identify even one plan that has entailed a reduction in the town’s housing stock ? The time has come to designate some of our British towns as having reached their maximum desirable sizes, and - as with the city of Bath - ensure that no further housing estates are built on their periphery. Roads are another matter, and I have read with great interest the correspondence from readers such as Murray Trantor, Terry Byrne and others, on this contentious subject.

Proposals for by-pass roads are put to the public regularly, and indeed at one time, Harrogate would simply have gone ahead and built one, but since 1974, and the creation of North Yorkshire County, the town’s council tax payers have been bled white by a precept which according to my last statement has reached eye-watering levels. Take Starbeck, for example.

This week’s illustration shows the route of the proposed by-pass road for Starbeck. Throughout the 1930s, the increasing level of vehicular traffic had caused problems for Starbeck High Street and its hinterland, as well as for the residents on Knaresborough Road between Granby corner and Starbeck. In 1937, Harrogate Council asked Leonard Clarke, the Borough Engineer, to submit proposals for relieving the undesirable situation, which were drawn up by December.

Four schemes were submitted. Scheme one suggested building a road bridge over the Starbeck railway crossing, which would begin at Albert Place and end at Prospect Road. Scheme two suggested tunnelling under the crossing via a single or double arch - just imagine the jams a single-arched tunnel would have caused! Scheme three suggested a road by-pass which would leave Starbeck High Street at Stonefall Avenue, and re-join it at the Methodist Church, via a new bridge over the railway line.

As none of these three schemes would have relieved the Granby corner to Starbeck part of Knaresborough Road, a fourth proposal was submitted which called for a broad by-pass road from Granby corner to Bogs Lane, terminating at Knaresborough Road near the golf club. It was this last scheme that won the council’s support, although the high cost assessment of £103,000 shook many of the councillors.

Because Harrogate had lost its powers for road building to the West Riding County Council, their sanction was required, along with that of the Minister of Transport. However, it was already the case that the West Riding County Council already had their own proposals for Starbeck, which included a by-pass of the level crossing, so after various adjustments, it was agreed to proceed with the scheme.

Unfortunately, the Second World War got in the way, and the proposals remained on paper. Interestingly enough, one of the most vocal opponents of the by-pass scheme argued that a by-pass would wreck Starbeck’s retail life, and that the new road would be a magnet to house builders who would fill its verges with ribbon development, which brings me back to our present twin problems of housing and roads.

With hindsight, it can be seen that although the proposed Starbeck by-pass would have removed the problem of the level crossing, the faster traffic would simply have moved more efficiently from one bottle-neck to another. As for today, I predict that until we get rid of North Yorkshire, nothing will be done to alleviate our traffic problems.