Work to improve Knaresborough air pollution moves ahead

Air pollution is increasing across the district.
Air pollution is increasing across the district.

Work to improve air quality at Bond End in Knaresborough has started to move forward after increasing pressure from town residents.

Pollution has been a well known issue in the town, with Air Quality Management Areas (AQMA) having been declared at Bond End in 2013 and at York Place earlier this year.

For several months residents have been calling for action, but following a meeting of the Bond End steering group, County Council officials have committed to finding ways to improve the situation.

County Councillor Don Mackenzie, Executive Member for Highways, said: “There has been a need for a long time to make these improvements and we are working closely with the Borough Council, businesses and traders to ensure the project goes ahead as smoothly as possible.”

Now county officials say they have employed specialist consultants, Mouchel, to undertake detailed traffic and environmental modelling work at Bond End.

The modelling work should set out technological solutions as well as a potential junction improvement to improve air quality in the long term.

Once work is complete a number of proposals will be revealed for public consultation in January 2017.

The Bond End steering group consists of representatives from the county, district and town councils, but the challenge to improve air quality in AQMA's across the district is the joint responsibility of North Yorkshire County Council (NYCC) and Harrogate Borough Council (HBC).

Chairman of the steering group, County Councillor, Bill Hoult (Knaresborough Division) said he was relieved that plans for Bond End are finally moving forward.

He said: "I got pretty fed up with it, I felt the County Council was just dragging it's feet. I thought at one stage that I would actually stand down as chairman if nothing happened soon, I essentially gave them an ultimatum when I called this meeting.

"I don't think the county council can wash its hands of this. It's been a hell of a long time coming and it should have come earlier.

"It's good that something is getting done now and we have got past this block that seemed to be there and we are back on track, even though I am really disappointed that we are not looking at a consultation until January."

But Coun Mackenzie said the County Council has been liaising with HBC and that considering the right option for Knaresborough will take time.

He said: "I also wish that we were further ahead with this process and we actually were taking steps to change the situation now. But we have to make sure that whatever we do we have the support of Knaresborough residents in doing so, which is why we are consulting on all our options and we have to be absolutely sure that whatever option we choose that it will work, because the last thing I want is even further delays at that junction."

"This is a complex issue and we are moving forward steadily."

Coun Mackenzie explained that the buildings around Bond End create a 'canyon effect' allowing the exhaust fumes from standing cars to 'linger' in the air.

He said: "The most effective way of improving air quality is to reduce the volume of traffic using this complex junction, which was not designed to cope with 21st century levels of traffic.

NYCC are in the process of drawing up proposals for a new Harrogate to Knaresborough 'relief road' and Coun Mackenzie said this could potentially reduce traffic through the Knaresborough by 30 per cent.