Solutions to Harrogate and Knaresborough’s congestion woes to be set out by council leaders

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A report on whether a relief road is needed to help tackle the growing congestion problems in two North Yorkshire towns will be published by county council bosses later this month.

North Yorkshire County Council says the population growth in Harrogate and Knaresborough in recent decades has put the neighbouring towns’ road network under severe pressure.

We haven’t really changed the highways infrastructure in the last 50 or 60 years.

Coun Don Mackenzie

On November 30, the council will publish a report setting out how it hopes to tackle the congestion which it says has led to “delays and unreliable journey times for residents, workers, businesses and visitors”.

Don Mackenzie, the council’s executive member for transport, told The Yorkshire Post that the report, which has been two years in the making, will include a recommendation on whether a relief road is needed for Harrogate and Knaresborough.

It will also set out other options to address congestion, including sustainable transport improvements and measures to manage demand on the roads, which will then be subject to a three-month consultation.

Any proposal for a relief road is likely to be controversial. In the 1990s, development work was carried out and a preferred route set out, though the road did not materialise.

Since then the levels of traffic in both towns have risen sharply, with Skipton Road in Harrogate regularly listed as one of the busiest roads in the country. In 2015, the council’s strategic transport prospectus revealed that a new relief road for Harrogate would be a “top priority”.

Coun Mackenzie said that the highways network in the two towns was “at certain times under severe pressure”.

He said: “We haven’t really changed the highways infrastructure in the last 50 or 60 years, the only new road we have had is the so-called southern bypass.

“In that time the population of Harrogate has grown by many thousands and in fact the latest draft local plan is calling for another 669 homes in the Harrogate district every year.

“Our local economy relies very much on visitors coming to us, they come to us for business and leisure, for example the Christmas market held this weekend.

“The last thing they want is to arrive in Harrogate and sit in traffic for half an hour or so.”

Helen Flynn, a Harrogate businesswoman and former district councillor who stood as a local Liberal Democrat candidate in this year’s General Election, called for “more imaginative” solutions than a relief road, saying the majority of the traffic on Harrogate’s busiest roads was local traffic.

She said: “To my mind, changes like more cycling, better bus services, park and ride and those kind of things are the way forward.”

The report will to go to North Yorkshire County Council’s Harrogate Area Committee on December 7. There is then likely to be a three-month consultation where anyone who works, lives or travels in Harrogate and Knaresborough can give their views on the report and their preferred solutions.

Meanwhile, Harrogate borough council said today that it will announce a new strategy for its provision of electric vehicle charging points.

It says the work will “provide a comprehensive strategy for the introduction of the points and explore possibilities of a public-private partnership to maximise the number of points and locations where they are provided”.

The council’s new Civic Centre on Knapping Mount is to have three rapid charging points that will be open to the public.