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Fears Harrogate relief road vote will be ignored

The crowd gathered at the Harrogate area committee meeting of North Yorkshire County Council at the Cairn Hotel. (Picture by Mike Whorley Photography)
The crowd gathered at the Harrogate area committee meeting of North Yorkshire County Council at the Cairn Hotel. (Picture by Mike Whorley Photography)

Fears are growing that North Yorkshire County Council may stick with the option of a new inner relief road in the Nidd Gorge area in a clash between Northallerton and Harrogate over possible anti-traffic congestion plans.

Concerned residents and pressure groups who attended last Thursday's county council meeting fear executive members meeting tomorrow, Friday in Northallerton may simply ignore Harrogate area county councillors' decision to reject package E (roads/sustainable completely and support package B (sustainable transport options) to go to public consultation.
The overwhelming vote has clearly left North Yorkshire County Council's Business and Environmental Services' corporate director and executive members with a dilemma on how best to proceed after the Harrogate Area committee's recommendation only to take package B forward next year.
Will they follow the lead set by the public and Harrogate Borough Council's leader Coun Richard Cooper at last Thursday's meeting at the Cairn Hotel.
Or will they go to public consultation as originally proposed on both Package B and Package E whilst noting the views and recommendations of the area committee?
As protesters launched their own petition on 38degrees.org.uk called 'Save Nidd Gorge and The Nidderdale Greenway', Harrogate's council leader made it plain her expected the county council to accord to the vote's result, even though it is not binding.
Coun Richard Cooper said: "Sustainable travel options should now be investigated more fully. That is what I hope the consultants will be asked to work up at this Friday's meeting.
"I respect the views of those who wanted to continue down a line of public consultation on the relief road option.
"I simply thought it was time to draw it to a close now because I cannot see any way in which it could be acceptable."
Coun Don Mackenzie, executive member, highways, passenger transport, Harrogate Saltergate, the man most associated with the Harrogate Relief Road Review which sparked last week's controversy, is refusing to be drawn on whether a relief road in Bilton will still be an option when North Yorkshire Couny Council.
But he says something has to be done about the Harrogate area's traffic congestion and the public should be allowed to give its views on a range of options.
Don MacKenzie said: "Congestion is not going away. It will get worse and dealing with it remains a top priority for North Yorkshie County Council
"I have yet to discuss how we take this matter forward with Highways officers as well as with the Leader and deputy leader.
"Of particular importance is that we proceed in accordance with Dept for Transport guidelines in such matters, since any package of schemes eventually chosen will need the support and funding of central government."
But Jemima Parker, chair of well-informed environmental pressure group Zero Carbon Harrogate said the county council's own report had undermined its case for a relief road in the Bilton and Nidd Gorge area.
She said: "We all know that new roads don’t work, they just fill up with more traffic. Whereas the variety of sustainable transport options being proposed will be a cheaper, more effective and more flexible way to help us travel around our towns.
"I hope the NYCC Executive will take on board the NYCC Harrogate Area Committee’s recommendations, looking at the evidence from the WSP’s report on our congestion issues.
"They would be foolish to fall back on a road solution that is outdated, expensive, ineffective and damaging to our trademark spa and heritage credentials."