Final decision on how to tackle Harrogate congestion looms

The building of a relief road to ease Harrogate congestion seems to have been taken off the table.
The building of a relief road to ease Harrogate congestion seems to have been taken off the table.

A final decision on how best to tackle Harrogate's contentious congestion issues could be made in October.

North Yorkshire County Councillors are likely to push ahead with a mixed package of sustainable measures - including improved cycling and walking infrastructure, and potential park and ride sites, while the possibility of a relief road being built near Nidd Gorge now appears to be off the table.

It came after North Yorkshire's Harrogate and Knaresborough contingent met on Thursday, August 29 to discuss their reaction to the county's congestion study.

Councillors were asked to comment on the results of the survey revealed in August, in which 12,000 people - 78 per cent of the total respondents - rejected the idea of a relief road near the Nidd Gorge.
Instead, 77 per cent of respondents endorsed improved cycling and walking infrastructure in the town, with another 75 per cent supported behaviour change among car drivers.

It was also revealed at the meeting that £240,000 has been spent since 2017 on the consultation process, with £70,000 of that going to consultants, and £30,000 put towards public engagement.

Councillor Don Mackenzie welcomed the report, but stated that introducing new sustainable measures wouldn't necessarily be easy, citing opposition to a proposed cycle path on Otley Road as an example.

“So far we have met nothing but opposition to that," Coun Mackenzie said.

"This is business as usual - this is money we’re intending to spend but we’re facing a great deal of opposition."

Coun Mackenzie, who as the county's executive member for transport will be present when the report is presented to the executive for a final decision, added that news measures would also likely have to include heightened parking or 'congestion' charges in order to effectively drive down traffic in the town centre.

He also rejected notions that Harrogate's bus networks would need to be overhauled - saying that Harrogate already had "one of the best bus services in the country", although this was met with cries from the crowd that it is "too expensive".

Coun Richard Cooper, the leader of Harrogate's council who also sits on the county, said he didn't share the "cynicism" of his colleagues who voiced concerns a relief road could still be considered by the county's executive.

"I think this was a genuine effort to see what people wanted...(we now) have the evidence against the roads and we can move optimistic, constructive positive view towards this project," he said.

The report will now return to North Yorkshire County Council's in the coming months, where a final decision on how to tackle Harrogate's congestion will be made.

Lachlan Leeming, Local Democracy Reporter