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Why Harrogate relief road is a terrible idea 2

Roe deer, Bilton Lane

Roe deer, Bilton Lane

Old Bilton is a lovely place. It's on Bilton Lane, which is close to traffic-free. A triangle of land here includes Bilton Fields, Bilton Beck, and the Nidd Gorge. The Nidderdale Greenway walking and cycling route crosses Bilton Lane on its way north to Ripley.

The Nidderdale Greenway and Bilton Lane are used for walking and cycling. Local people exercise their dogs in the fields here. It's a tranquil haven for wildlife right on the doorstep of Harrogate and Knaresborough residents.

Why Harrogate relief road is a terrible idea 2: Bilton is a haven for wildlife

Swallow, Bilton Lane car park

Swallow, Bilton Lane car park

Take a walk along Bilton Lane in the early morning, and you'll see blackbirds hopping around, searching for invertebrates; there are rabbits amongst the flowers; swallows nest in a barn at Bilton Dene; the sparrows love the hedgerows lining the lane, and they zoom in and out, chirping as loudly as they can. In the meadows, you might spot a roe deer family.

Walking through the Nidd Gorge, you're struck by its unspoilt, wild quality, as though a bit of pristine forest from South America had taken root between Harrogate and Knaresborough. No doubt the steep sides of the Gorge have saved it from development over the centuries.

Kingfisher

Kingfisher

If you keep a sharp look-out, you could be treated to the sight of kingfisher on its perch, or 'commuting' along the river going 'peep-peep-peep-peep-peep'. If you're very lucky, you might come across an otter. On the edge of the Gorge, owls search for voles in the fields.

Little owl

Little owl, Bilton Dene Farm

Why Harrogate relief road is a terrible idea 2: State of Nature

Nidd Viaduct

Nidd Viaduct

It may be that in the past, development happened without much thought to wildlife. That's probably why the UK has become one of the most nature-depleted countries in the world, according to the 2016 State of Nature Report.

The State of Nature report identifies the reasons for declines in wildlife. The intensification of agriculture has had the biggest impact, and climate change is highly significant. Loss of green space and habitat is another factor.

Low-intensity management of agricultural land, and habitat creation, are the most beneficial measures that can be taken for wildlife. Habitat creation is what the volunteers of the Bilton Conservation Group have been involved in since 1982 - or perhaps more accurately, working to ensure that a wonderful area reaches its full potential for wildlife and local residents.

Nature reserves are important, but working beyond the boundaries of protected areas is vital too, to create bigger, better wildlife sites, and a joined-up network of places where animals can live, and which they can move between.

State of Nature identifies that contact with nature can have positive impacts on young people's education, physical health, emotional well-being, and personal and social skills. It helps them become responsible citizens. If children are connected to nature, they are more likely to enjoy it, and to want to save it. Having nature near their home is one of the key things that contributes to children connecting with nature.

Blackbird, Nidderdale Greenway

A blackbird with a wild cherry, Nidderdale Greenway

The report says, 'We have a moral obligation to save nature, and this is a view shared by the millions of supporters of conservation organisations across the UK. Not only that, we must save nature for our own sake, as it provides us with essential and irreplaceable benefits that support our welfare and livelihoods.'

Why Harrogate relief road is a terrible idea 2: the Mammal Society report

Hedgehog

Hedgehog

On 13th June 2018, the Mammal Society and Natural England reported the results of their comprehensive review of mammal populations: one in five British mammals faces a high risk of extinction.

The red squirrel is one of the animals facing a threat to its survival in Britain. Water voles and hedgehogs have declined by around 66% in the last 20 years.

Climate change, loss of habitat, and pesticides are all cited as reasons, as are road deaths. Everyone must have seen dead hedgehogs on the roads of North Yorkshire. The Executive's Harrogate relief road proposals suggest a route one side of Bilton Lane or the other, with a link to it. What would a road carrying 1,000 cars an hour through this area do to the hedgehog population?

Why Harrogate relief road is a terrible idea 2: summary

Roe deer, Bilton, Harrogate

The area around Old Bilton is much-used and valued by local people, and it's a haven for wildlife.

We know that wild animals and birds are in decline, and there are multiple pressures on them. They need places to live. We have a moral obligation to the natural world, to let it live, and not to destroy its habitat. When we damage natural environments, we're ruining them for the animals and birds that live there, but for ourselves as well.

Road-building is a very effective way to destroy nature. It divides habitat, and degrades it, and many individual animals are killed by vehicles.

You cannot put a road carrying 1,000 cars an hour through this area without changing its character completely. It would no longer be a lovely, peaceful, wildlife-rich place. There would be noise, pollution, and danger.

We've sacrificed enough of our quality of life, the places we value, and our wildlife, to the motor car. Enough is enough.

The message to the Executive must be clear and unequivocal: no. We will not put up with this.

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Cycling UK poll

5th June 2018

Closed road cycling in York

A poll of 2,000 British adults for Cycling UK reveals the top reasons why more people don't cycle. They include sharing the road with large vehicles and close passes. What would encourage more people to ride bikes? Find out about the Cycling UK poll.

Why Harrogate relief road is a terrible idea 2: more evidence of nature under pressure

There's plenty of evidence that the natural world is under extreme pressure.

WWF report

On 30th October 2018, WWF released a report based on peer-reviewed studies, which shows that we lost 60% of animals (mammals, fish, birds, amphibians, and reptiles) between 1970 and 2014.

The losses are driven by human food production and exploitation of resources. Such rates of loss of biodiversity have only ever been seen before during mass extinctions.

Milo study

On 21st May 2018, The Guardian reported on a study by Professor Ron Milo which suggests that since the dawn of civilisation, humans have caused the loss of about 50% of all plants, and 83% of all wild animals.

According to the study, plants make up 82% of all living matter, bacteria 13%, and everything else 5%. Humans are just 0.01% of the Earth's total biomass.

Farmed poultry are 70% of all birds, with wild birds making up the other 30%.

60% of all mammals are livestock (mostly cattle and pigs), humans are 36%, and wild animals are 4%.

Where have all our insects gone?

Robin McKie's 17th June 2018 article in The Observer begins with an anecdote about the abundance of tiger moths in Kirk Hammerton and Green Hammerton in the 1970s. Those moths have disappeared.

McKie refers to an academic paper published in Plos One, which reported the results of collecting insects in nature reserves in Germany: in the 27 years between 1989 and 2016, the average weight of insects collected was down by 76%.

Many entomologists believe this collapse in insect numbers amounts to an ecological apocalypse.

It is not surprising that bird populations are also falling, since many rely on insects for food. The British population of swifts declined by 51% in 20 years between 1995 and 2015, and the rate of decline is increasing. The first UK Swift Awareness Week is being held 16th-23rd June 2018.

Mammals becoming more nocturnal

An analysis of the relevant studies published in Science on 15th June 2018 showed that mammals are becoming more nocturnal (by a factor of 1.36) as they seek to avoid contact with humans.

Roe deer, Bilton Lane Traffic jam, HarrogateSparrow, Bilton Lane