New delay expected for Otley Road cycle path's next stage in crucial Harrogate project

Work on a crucial cycle path project in Harrogate may face a new obstacle after the latest intervention by the Stray Defence Association and the need for further public consultation..

By Graham Chalmers
Thursday, 10th March 2022, 10:35 am
Otley Road cycle path - North Yorkshire County Council is now talking about a possible May starting date for work on phase two.
Otley Road cycle path - North Yorkshire County Council is now talking about a possible May starting date for work on phase two.

Part of a wider package of sustainable transport measures for the west of Harrogate - which will cost around £4.6m once completed - the Otley Road cycle path project is regarded as essential to the town's hopes of creating non-vehicular links to the town centre as momentum builds towards a more sustainable future.

Having first won funding in 2017, the North Yorkshire County Council-led scheme has been bogged down by a series of delays caused by:

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Public consultations with residents groups;

A series of storms;

Utility and construction works;

Drawn-out discussions with the Duchy of Lancaster - the owners of the Stray - over the use of grass verges protected by law.

Although phase one of the cycle lane, running from Harlow Moor Road to Arthurs Avenue, was finally completed last month, it received a disappointing reaction from cycling groups who, earlier this week, called for changes to be made.

Now phase two, which will run from Arthur’s Avenue/top of Cold Bath Road to Beech Grove, looks likely to face a setback of its own.

Having been quietly involved in talks over the impact of phase one on grass and trees on the side of Otley Road, the community group dedicated to safeguard Harrogate’s Stray against building and encroachment, is making its voice heard on the same subject before work starts on phase two.

The SDA’s chair Judy d’Arcy Thompson, this week called on North Yorkshire County Council to do more to protect the welfare of trees and grass verges in the next phase of the Otley Road cycle path project and avoid what she claimed might be “enormous environmental damage”.

“We remain extremely concerned that there is a grave risk of potentially serious damage to or loss of further trees during the current and forthcoming construction work on Otley Road.

“We sent the county council photographs showing the construction work further up towards Harlow Hill and voiced our worries that the trenching involved would, potentially, cause extensive damage to tree roots.

“We have also asked, on many occasions, for complete assurance that the trees on these verges - which will in law, remain Stray land - will be protected from such damage.

“All the responses from the county council have not, in our opinion, satisfactorily answered our very valid concerns.”

The SDA’s chair said the issue was not a cosmetic matter but involved the risk of flooding.

“Over the past four years or so, both in meetings and communications, we have repeatedly voiced our fears regarding the potential effect of the loss of both grass verges, plants and trees,” Mrs d’Arcy Thompson argued.

“Recent rainfall, which we are told will become more ‘typical’ rather than ‘remarkable’, has proved that losing these eco systems impacts on the flow of water coming down Harlow Hill towards the town.

“The potential for environmental damage is enormous.

“It is our belief and fear that further loss of wide grass verges, to be replaced with impermeable surfaces such as concrete, tarmac, will exacerbate this situation and that water will have no alternative route except down towards the town and the main body of the Stray.”

But North Yorkshire County Council’s transport leader Coun Don Mackenzie disputed there was any serious danger of flooding and pointed out that very few trees had actually been lost on Otley Road.

“The Stray Defence Association says verge and trees removal will exacerbate flooding on the Stray,” said Coun Mackenzie. “The cycle path involved the loss of just two trees which were replaced elsewhere.

“Yes, grass verge has been removed but that will make very little difference to flooding.”

Coun Mackenzie admitted the Otley Road cycle path project was a case of juggling more than one ball.

“The concerns expressed by the SDA demonstrate why we have to achieve a balance between its demands and those of the cycling groups.

“There are also the restrictions imposed by business and domestic access to driveways, several bus stops and controlled pedestrian crossings.”

It is, perhaps, for that reason that North Yorkshire County Council is now set to launch yet more public consultation with ‘stakeholder engagements’ to review designs for the second and third phases of the new cycle way.

More delay seems inevitable on this troubled project; the county council is talking about a later starting date for work on phase two - possibly May - dependant on the results of the public consultation and design review.

One thing is certain, groups like the SDA will continue to battle their corner.