Relief road to nowhere: How Harrogate failed to tackle traffic congestion over three wasted decades
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Where next in the search for a solution to a problem which has dogged the town and divided opinion for decades - traffic congestion?
With the Harrogate district's population on an upward curve thanks partly to the building of thousands of new houses, clogged-up roads pose a threat to the economy, the environment and people's everyday lives.
Last November saw members of local business group Independent Harrogate call for the building of a western bypass as part of its 'A Vision for Harrogate' report written by retired architect Barry Adams.
No sooner had the idea of a new road been brought to the table, however, than it was knocked back by transport leader Coun Keane Duncan, executive member for highways at North Yorkshire Council.
A dream for some, a nightmare for others, the recent history of the town shows turning the idea of a bypass into reality is a long and slow process.
It's now 30 years since Harrogate saw the construction of its last major new road to improve traffic flows - the southern bypass extending the A658 to link Knaresborough to Pannal.
But, such are the complexities of the situation, introducing sustainable measures to ease traffic congestion hasn’t proven any easier over that period either.
A series of attempts by North Yorkshire Council to introduce new infrastructure to encourage cycling, walking or the use of public transport, most notably the £11.2 million Harrogate Station Gateway project, have faltered after a series of public spats with business and residents groups.
Key dates in the see-saw story between new roads and sustainable alternatives include:
1990: North Yorkshire County Council adopts a preferred route for a Harrogate Western Relief Road, a Harrogate Northern Relief Road and Killinghall Bypass.
Plans drawn up by the Department for Transport are dropped when the Government changes the way it funds major transport schemes.
2002: North Yorkshire County Council withdraws its support for Harrogate Western Relief Road after pressure from local residents.
Instead, it calls for the development of an alternative strategy to encourage the take-up and better provision of pedestrian facilities, cycling and public transport.
But it also reaffirms its preference for a Harrogate Northern Relief Road and a Killinghall Bypass.
2016: North Yorkshire Council identifies options for four possible new bypasses in Harrogate.
Eventually, it concludes the options which showed the most positive effects for traffic on Harrogate’s existing roads were the two proposed Inner Northern Relief Roads.
2019: North Yorkshire County Council launches a public consultation on the Harrogate and Knaresborough Congestion Study which includes ideas for new roads and greener solutions.
After a series of protests, backed by Harrogate MP Andrew Jones, a majority of the public (77% of the approximately 15,000 people that responded) reject building a new relief road near Nidd Gorge, in favour of sustainable transport initiatives.
2021: North Yorkshire County Council announces its aspirations for a bypass around Killinghall, a park-and-ride south of Harrogate and major cycling and walking improvements in the town centre, including the £11.2 million Station Gateway project.
2023: North Yorkshire County Council waters down Gateway proposals to limit car use in the town centre after the threat of legal action from a leading Harrogate businessman.
North Yorkshire Council is now expected to report in the spring on how it will deliver long-awaited change in its Harrogate Transport Improvement Programme.
The last 50 years is littered with possible new relief roads in Harrogate which never came to pass and cycle lanes which never got off the ground.
The question is whether 2024 will be the year the stalemate on the town’s traffic future is finally broken.