Harrogate relief road plan slammed by councillors

Harrogate relief road meeting - The 'top table' of county councillors at the Cairn Hotel in Harrogate. (Picture by Lachlan Leeming, Local Democracy Reporter)
Harrogate relief road meeting - The 'top table' of county councillors at the Cairn Hotel in Harrogate. (Picture by Lachlan Leeming, Local Democracy Reporter)

A proposal to build a relief road at Nidd Gorge has been overwhelmingly rejected for the second time in a year by councillors.

North Yorkshire County Council’s Harrogate and Knaresborough Area Constituency Committee met at the Cairn Hotel on Thursday to discuss the latest report exploring solutions to Harrogate town centre’s congestion crisis.

Members of the public at the Harrogate relief road meeting at the Cairn Hotel in Harrogate. (Picture by Lachlan Leeming, Local Democracy Reporter)

Members of the public at the Harrogate relief road meeting at the Cairn Hotel in Harrogate. (Picture by Lachlan Leeming, Local Democracy Reporter)

While there was no formal vote on the matter, councillors were encouraged to comment on the updated report – with the vast majority criticising the proposal over a lack of environmental and social analysis, as well as a lack of detail on a specific route.

Councillor Geoff Webber (Lib Dem, Harrogate Bilton and Nidd Gorge) was one of the committee members who slammed the lack of a detailed route for a road.
Coun Webber said he was “very disappointed” that no map was included, and said he failed to see how the public could make an informed decision without one.
“Part of the democratic process is for other residents to be able to comment (on the proposal)….but I would only be comfortable for this process to go forward if a map was provided,” he said.

When councillors repeatedly asked why no specific routes were included in the 243-page report, a North Yorkshire council officers responded that it wasn’t “appropriate at this stage to do any more detailed mapping”.

Harrogate Borough Council leader Richard Cooper, who was at the forefront of a vote last year which saw councillors reject the relief road proposal, reiterated his position, saying he couldn’t support a proposal that could potentially cut through Harrogate golf club, Nidd Gorge and private residences.
“Can I seriously raise my hand to the people and say I’m voting for that?” he said.

He suggested that North Yorkshire County Council drop the relief road proposal if they wanted to move into public consultation, given that the “vast majority” of public voices wouldn’t change in their opposition to the road.

“I want to save the county council money because I can tell you what the answer is right now,” he said.
Instead, he said that the report’s proposal of sustainable management of Harrogate’s congestion could be tackled – but warned that it wouldn’t be easy.

He said getting people out of their cars and onto public transport meant implementing higher prices for parking, cutting down on parking spaces and creating car parks at park and ride points.

While the majority of councillors spoke against the proposal, County Councillor and executive member for access Don Mackenzie said he was “happy to go forward with both of these packages” to public consultation.

He said that within his Harrogate Saltergate division constituents often quizzed him about the growing number of homes being built and how the accompanying congestion would be handled.

“They are concerned – (constituents ask) with all of these houses being built, what are you going to do about congestion?” he said.
He said progressing to public consultation would enable the council to “get the views of everyone and not the select few” who spoke during the public access section of the meeting.

He was supported by committee vice chair Coun Zoe Metcalfe, who said it was “democratically right” for all members of the public to be consulted on the proposals.

Councillors’ comments will now be submitted to the County Council’s executive prior to the executive deciding on whether to proceed to public consultation in early 2019.

Thursday’s meeting came as Harrogate MP Andrew Jones slammed any proposal for a relief road at Nidd Gorge.

Mr Jones said preserving Nidd Gorge and the greenway was priority, stating: “If that is the price of the proposed relief road, it is a price I do not want to pay”.

Harrogate relief road: What Andrew Jones MP said

EXCLUSIVE: Harrogate MP says he is completely opposed to Nidd Gorge relief road

By Lachlan Leeming, Local Democacy Reporter