Famous nature writer blasts new Harrogate bypass plan

Bestselling nature author Rob Cowen.Bestselling nature author Rob Cowen.
Bestselling nature author Rob Cowen.
An award-winning author has blasted plans for a new £70 million Harrogate bypass as a threat to one of the region's richest area's for nature and wildlife.

Harrogate writer Rob Cowen said the alarm bells were set ringing by two of the four options being floated by North Yorkshire County Council to alleviate traffic congestion in the Harrogate and Knaresborough areas.

Cowen, whose bestselling book Common Ground is set in the non-developed edgeland between Bilton and Nidd Gorge, said: “The greenway and surrounding landscape of meadow, wood, edge-land etc represents a vital destination for people and one of the richest wildlife areas in the region.

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“You can find otters, sparrowhawks, hares, buzzards, deer, woodpeckers. The list of animals and birds in the Bilton edgeland is extensive.”

Cowen was filmed by BBC TV’s Countryfile extolling the virtues of the area earlier this year in exactly the same spot which could be affected by plans for a new relief road.

The successful author, who lives with his wife Rose and two children in Bilton, has enjoyed an international hit with his book Common Ground gaining celebrity fans such as Alan Bennett, Joanne Harris and Michael Palin

A regular writer for the Daily Telegraph and The Guardian, Rob Cowen fears the Green and Blue routes for a possible new bypass would also serve to make it easier to build more houses.

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North Yorkshire Country Council has set aside £500,000 to fund a study on possible routes with the objective of obtaining £70 million in government funds for a relief road by the end of 2017.

The ‘Green Route’ would run from Killinghall through Bachelor Gardens near the sewage works behind Tennyson Avenue to a roundabout on Bilton Lane, behind Woodfield Road and into the Bilton Triangle.

The ‘Blue Route’ would follow the same alignment as far as Tennyson Avenue then moves deeper into Nidd Gorge near the viaduct towards Bilton Hall Drive and the A59 near Harrogate Golf Course.

Bilton Conservation Group’s honorary secretary Keith Wilkinson said: “We see the route as little to do with traffic relief. It is the same Trojan Horse we faced in 1986 which was simply a means of opening up the slender strip of Green Belt which prevents Knaresborough and Harrogate coalescing to form Knaresgate or Harknessborough. The prospect of undesirable mass housing is very real.

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“We have worked with the Harrogate Borough Council and the Woodland Trust for more than 30 years to conserve the Nidd Gorge and for ten years with Harrogate Borough Council and NYCC to help create the hugely successful Nidderdale Greenway from Harrogate to Ripley.

“The Green and Blue Routes would render those thousands of hours of community effort a complete waste of time.”

The group is urging the public to attend a meeting held by North Yorkshire County Council at Ripon Spa Hotel next Thursday, November 17.

All questions have emailed in advance to [email protected]