Part of Harrogate could become 'low traffic neighbourhood' where streets are closed to through-traffic

Part of a Yorkshire town could be turned into a ‘low traffic neighbourhood’ where residential streets are closed to through-traffic to encourage locals to travel on foot or by bike.

Monday, 21st December 2020, 2:26 pm
Updated Monday, 21st December 2020, 2:44 pm

The idea has been unveiled as part of the Harrogate Transport Improvement Programme designed to tackle rising levels of congestion in the town after residents rejected the idea of a relief road to the east of the spa town.

North Yorkshire County Council is going to consider how the suburb of Bilton, north east of the town centre, could see measures introduced to encourage walking and cycling because of high levels of support for both in the area.

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If a ‘low traffic neighbourhood’ scheme was introduced, some residential streets would be closed to through-traffic to encourage those making shorter journeys to walk or cycle.

Other measures considered to reduce congestion include a standalone bypass at Kilinghall, north of Harrogate, which was deemed to offer “high value for money” and will now be added to the council’s ‘major schemes development list’ for possible submission to the Department for Transport.

Officials bus priority measures on two of the major roads into Harrogate, the A61 and the A59, “offer the potential to attract more passengers and improve reliability”.

And after considering 102 potential sites for park and ride sites, where people could park outside the town centre and then get the bus, two sites to the south of Harrogate near the A61 were said to have “the greatest potential for success”.

A cyclist on Kings Road, Harrogate. Picture Gerard Binks

But a county council report says: “The study notes that for park and ride to be operationally sustainable, and attractive to users, experience from successful sites elsewhere illustrates that there would need to be introduction of a complementary parking management regime to dissuade drivers from parking in the town centre.

“As parking management is a duty split between both the county and borough councils, it would be essential to ensure a coordinated approach on this.”

But in order for any of these schemes to go ahead, the Conservative-run authority says central government funding is likely to be needed.

County Councillor Don Mackenzie, Executive Member for Access, said: “Guided by feedback from the congestion study, we are developing options in a number of areas, including better infrastructure for cyclists and pedestrians, enhanced priority for buses, a park and ride scheme, improvements at key junctions, and a bypass for Killinghall.

“As work progresses, we will aim to deliver long-lasting benefits in a consistent, co-ordinated way to realise fully the benefits of any projects.

“The cost of these projects will be beyond the capital available within the county council’s existing budgets, so we will need to look to government funding opportunities.”

A major consultation scheme was carried out last summer into how to tackle congestion in Harrogate, which resulted in what the council describes as “a conclusive rejection of the proposal for an inner northern relief road”.

Consultants WSP were commissioned to “develop further possible interventions”.

An assessment of the “most problematic junctions” locally resulted in the top five being named as Parliament Street/ Kings Street/Ripon Road, Empress Roundabout, Gracious St/ York St/Park Row, Wetherby Rd/Hookstone Corner (Woodlands Corner) and Leeds Rd M&S Junction.

The report said: “In most cases, work has been undertaken on these junctions in recent years, but there are limits to the capacity that can be delivered in the face of rising traffic volumes.

On that basis, it is suggested that a coordinated, multi modal, approach is taken to junction operation, alongside a focus on reducing traffic volumes.”

The County Council’s Area Constituency Committee for Harrogate and Knaresborough will discuss the report next month.

The study only used traffic and transport data collected before the start of the pandemic in March “as the lasting effects of Covid 19 on travel habits are, as yet, uncertain”.

In Sheffield and Leeds, charging zones to discourage polluting vehicles have been put on hold or cancelled altogether because pollution levels have fallen so much.

The report said: “The Department for Transport is monitoring the impact of Covid 19 on travel behaviour and has not yet set out any revised approaches to transport modelling and forecasting. Therefore existing modelling and appraisal approaches are the best tools we currently have available to us.”