Harrogate and Knaresborough MP Andrew Jones is calling on residents to reject a relief road as part of new public consulation on traffic congestion.
It’s not the first time during North Yorkshire County Council’s 18-month long project to tackle the issue that the junior transport minister has made his presence felt.
But in his latest Tory 'In Touch' leaflet distributed to his constituents, the MP renews his opposition to any idea of a new road from Bilton to Forest Lane via unspoilt near land at Nidd Gorge, saying “I hope that local residents will reject it in the county council’s consultation.”
His views are shared by Coun Richard Cooper, leader of Harrogate Borough Council, and most local county councillors who believe a relief road in that location would ruin a natural beatuy spot without reducing traffic jams in Harrogate substantially.
North Yorkshire County Council itself says the potential new road is only one of a wide range of options and that nothing has yet been decided.
The online survey, a major part of the county council's current public consultation, has 23 ‘tick box’ questions in total asking the public what they think about traffic congestion and which, if any, possible solutions they favour.
But the study commissioned by the county council does identify two separate ‘packages’ of measures which the county council describes as “core interventions” and which are highlighted on its website.
Package B focuses on demand management and travel behaviour with ideas to boost public transport, cycling and walking.
Package E, includes park and ride facilities, bus priority measures, a Killinghall bypass and a Bilton relief road.
The survey’s actual questions have no direct link to either B or E.
The key question addressed by Andrew Jones MP is number 15 which asks “Having read the information, how strongly do you feel that we should construct a relief road between Harrogate and Knaresborough including a Killinghall Bypass (as shown in the information) to reduce congestion in Harrogate and Knaresborough?”
The MP argues the answer to that should be no.
On his official website, the MP says “When a proposal comes forward that I believe is so out-of-keeping with the generally good stewardship that our councils have demonstrated over decades I feel duty-bound, as a resident and as the Member of Parliament, to speak out.
“The so-called relief road through the Nidd Gorge is one such proposal.
“The Nidd Gorge and the land surrounding it is a part of what makes our area special. It isn’t an added extra that we can do without. It has high environmental value welcoming thousands of walkers, horse-riders and cyclists.
“How can a road which means demolition of properties at Forest Moor in Knaresborough, bisecting Harrogate Golf Club, crossing somehow the Nidderdale Greenway and potentially the River Nidd outweigh the environmental value of that land?
“Through traffic is seven per cent of all traffic. Would the effect of a relief road in that location really have such a dramatic effect on traffic congestions as to be worth the environmental damage it would cause?
“And with the competing priorities for road funding across the United Kingdom would such a road really attract the national funding it would require in order to be built.
“The answer to all those questions is no. That is why I think the idea should be dropped.”
Coun Don Mackenzie, the county council’s executive member for highways and passenger transport, says the council is open-minded on the subject and that the whole idea is to allow residents to say what they would like to see happen as traffic congestion continues to grow in the face of new housing developments.
Coun Mackenzie said: “NYCC and I, as an executive member, remain uncommitted on the way forward as we seek to combat congestion.
“We will be guided by the findings of the engagement.”
Harrogate Traffic Congestion: What the public consultation involves
North Yorkshire County Council’s current major public engagement over traffic congestion in Harrogate and Knaresborough runs until Monday, 8 July.
The county council is seeking the public’s views on congestion in Harrogate and Knaresborough and what measures it would support being taken forward to address it. A 23-question survey open to all is already online at the county council’s website.
As series of five public exhibitions to allow people to view information on the proposals start on May 8.
The public engagement follows a study by consultants commissioned by the county council to look into congestion in Harrogate and Knaresborough, and to consider its impact and how it could be addressed.
The county council will spend more than a month assessing the responses before county councillors start discussing the results in September.