'Public have rejected Nidd Gorge relief road' claims councillor
After 12 weeks of heated debate, banners, drones, estate agents letters, protest marches and big name interventions, the public consultation over traffic congestion in Harrogate and Knaresborough ends today.
Having launched the process in early April, North Yorkshire Counnty Council has stuck to the same line throughout that a possible relief road near Nidd Gorge was just one of many questions on its online survey, many of which are 'sustainable' green options.
Nonetheless, it's been the 'Nidd Gorge relief road' idea which has provoked all the controversy from the beginning.
As least one Harrogate-based county councillor is convinced that the survey's results will show a resounding 'no' to that particular issue.
Coun Paul Haslam (Conservative, Old Bilton), said he thought the option of a new road from Bilton through to Forest Lane and onto Harrogate's southern bypass was now a a dead duck.But he is also launching a campaign to give Nidd Gorge wilderness area permanent protection for its habitat and wildlife.
Coun Haslam said: “I am confident that the public will overwhelmingly reject the relief road proposal in the Harrogate Congestion Study and I am confident that the county council will accept that judgement. "But I don’t want this to be the end of the story for the Nidd Gorge. AONB status will officially make the area ‘community countryside’, there to be enjoyed by all – including the many distinctive species which inhabit it.”
Coun Haslam has now written to Natural England Chairman and well-known naturalist, Tony Juniper CBE asking for his proposal to be considered. Coun Haslam’s initiative comes at a time when Natural England are concluding a review of Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
He said: “I want to harness the community energy generated by the Harrogate Congestion Study into a positive force to permanently protect the Nidd Gorge. "Over the coming weeks I will be seeking to persuade local politicians, the public and environmental groups to get behind the proposal. "
At the last estimate, North Yorkshire County Council had received approximately 13,000 responses to its online survey.Once today's July 8 deadline has passed, responses will form the basis of a report to NYCC’s Harrogate and Knaresborough Area Constituency Committee on August 29, and to the Skipton and Ripon ACC on September 6.
North Yorkshire County Council has always been keen to point out that the controversial Bilton to Forest Lane ‘relief road’ idea is just one option in its online survey on attitudes to traffic congestion in Harrogate and Knaresborough.Ultimately, decision will be taken by the NYCC executive at the end of this year.
Forces already opposed to any idea of 'Nidd Gorge relief road' include Harrogate and Knaresborough MP Andrew Jones, Harrogate Borough Council leader Coun Richard Cooper, most Harrogate and Knaresborough area councillors, Knaresborough Parish Council, Harrogate and Knaresborough Alliance for Less Traffic (HALT), The Woodland Trust, pupils from many local schools and award-winning nature author Rob Cowen, whose award-winning Common Ground book is set in Nidd Gorge.