Deeply Flawed HAPARA Report
11th November 2020
HAPARA, the Harlow and Pannal Ash Residents' Association, has produced a deeply flawed report titled Campaign for Sustainability of Development. Unfortunately, particularly on transport, their proposed solutions are the opposite of sustainable.
A statement on the front page of the report states that HAPARA would like developments in the area to be exemplars of the way in which new housing addresses the challenge of net zero, but the content of the report undermines that objective.
HAPARA's Transport Arguments
The report identifies 'pressure points' on the road network, created or exacerbated by extra traffic. They include Otley Road and the roundabout at the top of Pannal Ash Road. HAPARA's solution is 'significant infrastructure improvements at all these points' - by which they mean road widening to accommodate more traffic, not provision for active travel.
The Otley Road cycleway is dismissed in two paragraphs: 'it will do little to reduce traffic on what is already a very busy road.'
A paragraph titled 'Sustainable modes of travel' identifies that the majority of sites on the Western Arc of Harrogate will be hugely car dependent. This is because of the failure of our local authorities to provide safe and convenient routes for active travel. HAPARA's solution is not better active travel routes; they simply dismiss cycling as not a viable solution.
'Cycling, which currently accounts for 2% of trips, and pedestrian options are very unlikely to make a significant dent in the expected traffic increase, without a massive investment into a full cycling network. Heavy traffic and the hilly terrain will act as a further disincentive to cycling as an effective solution to reducing peak hour traffic levels...a substantial investment in a cycling network in town is unlikely to alleviate traffic to and from the A61.'
A further paragraph calls for 'measures to improve the alternative routes between the B6162 and the A61'. HAPARA want 'significant improvements to the road infrastructure' - which sounds like an endorsement of North Yorkshire's idea for a bypass or ring road to the south west of Harrogate.
Objections to HAPARA's Arguments
Otley Road Cycleway
It is unbelieveable that the Otley Road cycleway is dismissed in this way, before it has even been built. Yes, the design should be improved to the modern Cycle Infrastructure Design standards, then it should actually be built. It should be as good as it can possibly be, and people should use it.
But you can't write a so-called sustainability report in which you dismiss sustainable modes of travel as having no impact, and just call for more provision for motor cars.
In reality, cycle paths are relatively cheap compared to roads, and the return on investment is high. HAPARA's report perpetuates the old way of thinking: we can't afford active travel routes, but when it comes to high-carbon roads for cars, money is no object.
2% of Trips
Cycling accounts for 2% of trips because we don't provide safe, convenient routes, and most people are too scared of the traffic to go anywhere by bike. If and when we do provide for cycling, modal share can increase quickly.
Dismissing cycling in this way based on current modal share shows a lack of vision, the lack of an ability to imagine how things could be different, and a lack of genuine commitment to sustainability, despite the title of the report.
The report identifies heavy traffic as a disincentive to cycling, but instead of calling for the obvious solution - provide cycle routes with physical protection from traffic or away from traffic - it seems to draw the conclusion that nothing can be done about that, so let's just provide for even more traffic. It is a non-solution to the problem, based on a belief that nothing can ever change. That is deeply disappointing.
Our priority should be short, local journeys. Congestion in Harrogate is largely caused by people driving half a mile to school or the shops. Replace those trips with active travel or public transport, and it will largely be 'job done.' That should be the priority.
Getting out of town to the A61 at peak times should not be the priority. If you flatten the countryside for new roads to increase capacity, driving will become more attractive, more people will do it, and you'll have congestion but with even larger numbers of cars. It will make the queues into Harewood, and on the edge of Leeds, worse.
I went through some of these arguments when North Yorkshire was pushing it's so-called relief road. 'Building more roads is any case senseless. Of course, you do sometimes have to make roads wider, and re-work junctions, but if you think you're going to solve the problem of congestion like that, you're wrong.'
An actual solution is to make the trains better, and encourage more people to go to Leeds by rail.
In case anyone has forgotten, there was a clear response to the Harrogate Congestion Survey a bit more than a year ago: no to the relief road, but give us better walking and cycling routes.
Since then, there has been no attempt whatsoever by North Yorkshire to implement the result; indeed, their immediate reaction was to propose a different bypass.
HAPARA is also calling for 'a major upgrade in highway capacity', and that seems to include a south western bypass. How does that square with the Congestion Survey result? It doesn't. So let the local authorities get on with doing what the people asked for, not what they didn't ask for.
The rules state that new developments should 'give first priority to pedestrian and cycle movements, both within the scheme and in neighbouring areas.' The problem is that developers, councils, and now HAPARA, just assume that these are warm words that aren't intended to be taken seriously. That has to change.
HDCA and Zero Carbon Harrogate
Harrogate District Cycle Action's name appears on the front page of the report, but that is an embarrassment because the content of the report undermines everything we stand and campaign for. In my opinion the report does not represent our views.
I know that Zero Carbon Harrogate want to see road construction limited to reallocation of street space and improvement of the existing network, so why would they put their name to this report?
There is quite a lot that's good in the HAPARA report, but their arguments on transport are so badly wrong that they can't go unchallenged.