Harrogate’s MP has spoken out for the first time about traffic congestion proposals, saying he is completely opposed to any relief road at Nidd Gorge.
In a withering assessment of progress to date on potential solutions to mounting gridlock on Harrogate’s roads, Andrew Jones said the proposed route would not solve the problem.
The options outlined in a new congestion study report commissioned by North Yorkshire County Council to be put to a meeting of county councillors today, Thursday, at Harrogate’s Cairn Hotel, were simply “unacceptable,” he added.
The former transport minister said: “It is positive that the county council is looking at a range of measures to improve the quality of life in our area and alleviate traffic congestion.
“But I am strongly against a new relief road as identified in the WSP report and I want to preserve the Nidd Gorge and I want to preserve the greenway.
“If that is the price of the proposed relief road, it is a price I do not want to pay. It would be incredibly damaging to huge areas of landscape and the environment.”
A Conservative Party vice-chairman responsible for business engagement, Mr Jones’s dramatic intervention comes as county councillors from the Harrogate and Knaresborough area get the chance to comment on the Harrogate Congestion Study carried out by consultants WSP at the request of North Yorkshire County Council.
But the MP said the report lacked detail on the crucial question of reducing traffic in Harrogate town centre and the county council should be focusing on sustainable measures which encouraged drivers to get out of their cars. He said he is also against the introduction of congestion charges.
Mr Jones said: “As a transport minister for two years, I am very familiar with the issues. I’ve read the WSP report which is going to be discussed on Thursday morning and there isn’t enough detail.
“It sounds like councillors are being presented with a choice between an unacceptable option A and an unacceptable option B.
“The council needs to be clear about what they want to do. But it isn’t clear. What problem are they solving with this?”
The Harrogate MP’s views chime with the arguments advanced by residents groups and campaigners fighting to protect Bilton and the Nidd Gorge from development.
The MP said: “The reason I’m not in favour of the relief road option is that it will be a road which bypasses the town.
“Figures show only a small proportion of Harrogate and Knaresborough congestion is caused by through traffic.
“We do not want a relief road weaving between Knaresborough and Harrogate.
“I am resolute in my opinion that this would cause lasting damage to the beautiful and wonderful Nidd Gorge, as well as impacting on householders and facilities in the area.”