The proposal to construct a relief road/ring road around the outskirts of Harrogate at a cost of £70 to £100 million and at the expense of losing large swathes of countryside seems to me to be missing the presence of a very obvious and much easier alternative.
The council’s own evidence shows that the vast majority (circa 90 per cent) of journeys clogging up the roads are local journeys by people criss-crossing Harrogate, particularly along Skipton Road.
The construction of a relief road away from these local areas may not therefore lead to the significant reduction in traffic which is hoped for – the official estimates themselves suggest that these will only reduce traffic by 20-30 per cent.
Spending £100 million and destroying the Greenway to take potentially only one out of five cars off Skipton Road cannot make sense to anyone.
An easier and more effective option, however, would seem to be staring us in the face. Rather than spending such vast sums on ripping up much-loved green areas, we have an existing road which could fairly easily be improved to create a direct, alternative access route into Bilton and beyond.
The route in question is along Bilton Hall Drive and lower Bilton Lane. This route is single-track along much of its length and is currently blocked off halfway along it to prevent traffic (other than those living on the route) from using it.
The development and upgrading of this existing road into a proper usable alternative would seem such an obvious step, it seems astonishing that it does not seem to have been considered to any extent, particularly bearing in mind how close it runs to one of the proposed routes.
This road could be transformed to a wider road which would provide an alternative route for traffic approaching from the east (the A1, Knaresborough) wishing to travel to the north of Harrogate, as well as servicing the whole Bilton area. This would take significant numbers of cars off Skipton Road and Knaresborough Road.
If coupled with improvements to Forest Lane, this would also create an effective alternative route for traffic from the south (Leeds, Wetherby) to Bilton and beyond.
Given the increased volume of traffic coming up Bilton Lane as a result, the lights at the junction with Skipton Road should be replaced with a roundabout.
In addition, it may prove necessary to add a roundabout at the bottom end of Forest Lane.
It is already a dangerous and difficult junction and this would be necessary to accommodate the increased numbers of traffic turning right off Wetherby Road onto Forest Lane.
The route along lower Bilton Lane is presently used as part of the cycle route to Knaresborough and it would be essential that any such plans should incorporate an adequate designated cycle route to compensate for this.
The lower part of the cycle route from Bilton Hall to Knaresborough would be unaffected.