Long-awaited possible action to tackle Harrogate’s traffic congestion problems finally took concrete steps foward this week.
But North Yorkshire County Council and Harrogate Borough Council could find themselves at loggerheads after a leading Harrogate figures described any idea of a new road near Nidd Gorge as pointless and "surreal."
After more than a year of discussions, meetings and two separate consultants reports, North Yorkshire County Council had finally decided to put out a range of options to a full public consultation set to start in a matter of weeks.
As expected, NYCC’s executive members, who include only two Harrogate councillors, agreed that that two packages of options resulting from the Harrogate Congestion Study report by consultants WSP should be put before the public for their views.
That means not only a raft of ‘green’ measures to discourage car use in Harrogate.
It also means the possibility of a new Killinghall bypass and also a relief road near Nidd Gorge, even though the latter is firmly opposed by Harrogate and Knaresborough MP and Transport Minister Andrew Jones and by Harrogate councillors including Harrogate Borough Council leader, Coun Richard Cooper as offering no solution to town centre congestion.
But the man most associated with the whole issue, Coun Don Mackenzie, North Yorkshire County Council’s executive member for access, said it was time to act in the face of longer queues of traffic and slower journey times.
Coun Mackenzie said: “I was pleased that the recommendation to consult the residents of Harrogate and Knaresborough on their views on both packages was unanimously approved.
“I hear from people saying that no new roads have been built in the two towns for almost 30 years asking how we can expect the existing highways network to cope with ever-increasing residential and commercial development without congestion getting much worse.
“I believe that it is right that we should ask residents, who face the effects of congestion every day, to give us their views on how we should proceed.
“I expect the consultation to start by the beginning of March and that it will involve a paper delivery to households and through online means.”
Coun Richard Cooper dismissed the decision as “surreal” and described the idea of any relief road near the Nidd Gorge as a non-starter.
He said: “I am relaxed about the county council taking the proposal for a relief road out to public consultation because they are consulting also on sustainable transport measures to beat the jams.
“I am certain that the public will reject suggestions of a road that harms so much countryside, cost such a lot of money and has a very limited effect on congestion.
“We can then get on with the serious business of implementing sustainable transport measures rather than this slightly surreal sideshow about an un-needed road through the countryside for which funding will never be available.”
Green groups and residents groups in Harrogate have long claimed that the real reason behind the drive for new roads is to support economic growth rather than deal with congestion.