Residents could have their say as massive public consultation over district traffic congestion is launched

The question of a relief road through Nidd Gorge is a major and controversial issue.
The question of a relief road through Nidd Gorge is a major and controversial issue.

The timetable  has been set to tackle Harrogate and Knaresborough’s mounting traffic congestion problems.

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And 100,000 members of the public across the district are set to get their say on the possible solutions in a massive public consultation exercise early next year.

After the first meeting of North Yorkshire County Council’s new Harrogate Congestion Study – Engagement Group, Coun Don Mackenzie said local county councillors may also get a chance to vote again, too.

Coun Don Mackenzie said: “Following the conclusion of the Engagement Group, a decision will be taken later this year by the county council’s executive on whether to go out to a district wide public consultation early in 2019.

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“It is possible that councillors on the Area Constituency Committee may wish to consider this matter prior to the decision by the executive.

“This consultation will run over several months, and will be provided on various platforms including online, face to face, print media.”

One of the many statistics identified already in the Harrogate Congestion Study’s initial analysis is that economic growth in Harrogate’s Local Plan is likely to lead to an additional 5,700 car trips in the Harrogate area every hour at peak times by 2035.

But in signs of the tensions which may develop, the Engagement Group’s first meeting at the Cairn Hotel saw members of the public turned away by security guards.

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Margaret Smith, chair of Harrogate & Knaresborough Constituency Labour Party, said: “I find it unbelievable that interested members of the public were prevented entry by paid security guards. Surely public involvement should be encouraged for an “engagement” group?”

But Coun MacKenzie said the meeting had never been intended to be a public one and the Engagement Group meetings deliberations would be made public on the county council website.

He said: “Four uninvited people turned up this morning at the inaugural meeting of the Engagement Group but were refused entry.

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“The meeting was not a public one and was never intended as such. Much more meaningful progress can be made when meetings are properly organised”

The latest spat over what to do about traffic congestion follows a heated meeting of North Yorkshire County Council’s Harrogate District Area Committee last December last year at the same venue attended by angry local residents groups and ‘green’ groups.

Instead, councillors voted in favour of exploring ‘sustainable’ and environmentally-friendly measures, rejecting overwhelming a relief road option from Bilton through the Nidd Gorge area as part of the council’s Harrogate Relief Road Review project.

Afterwards, the council announced it would look in greater detail at all potential options on Harrogate and Knaresborough’s congestion problems, including sustainable transport improvements, measures to manage demand and an inner relief road.

Congestion study... what's next?

The next stage in what may turn out to be a complex and controversial process will see further Engagement Group meetings planned for Tuesday, June 26 at 2pm and Tuesday, September 11 at 2pm.

In total, 18 groups are represented on, from national haulage and business firms such as Freight Transport Association and the Federation of Small Businesses, to local bodies such as Harrogate Chamber of Trade and Killinghall Parish Council, residents groups such as Zero Carbon Harrogate, Bilton Conservation Group and Harrogate Cycle Action Group to local bus and train operators.