A so-called Harrogate
relief road is being promoted by North Yorkshire County
Council's Business & Environmental Services Executive ('the
Executive'). The Executive includes Councillors Don Mackenzie and
Andrew Lee, and Corporate Director David Bowe.
At an Area Committee meeting on Thursday 7th December 2017,
councillors voted 14-2 against continuing with the road proposal,
but the Executive disregarded the vote, and decided
to push ahead with it.
Most of Harrogate's traffic is short, local journeys. In fact, 93%
of traffic in Harrogate is from journeys that begin or end in
Harrogate, or are entirely within Harrogate; only 7% is through
This helps explain why the name 'bypass' has not been chosen for
the unwanted road. A bypass option to the north of Harrogate that
only keeps non-local traffic out of the town would have little
Since congestion is caused by local traffic making short, local
journeys in Harrogate, can a new road possibly resolve the problem?
No. The new road will fill up with traffic, and extra traffic will cause
even worse jams on other roads and junctions in Harrogate.
Instead of 'relief road', this project should be called the
'congestion generator road'. Proponents of the road have never
addressed this reality. It seems their thinking is (with credit to
Yes Minister) 'something must be done; this is something; therefore
it must be done'.
What is needed is a more intelligent approach. The only strategy
which can be successful in the long-run is to reduce the volume of
traffic. That means giving people other options that are clearly
safe, convenient and attractive.
The collection of cycle routes we have now is an incomplete network
of bodge-jobs; even some of the most recent 'infrastructure' is built
to such poor design standards that it is ignored by people on
bikes. They need radical improvement, so people of all ages
can get around by bike if they so choose. Let's have more electric
buses, and prioritise walking - don't make people watch as twenty or
thirty cars go past, before lights at a pedestrian crossing change.
In an attempt to make it look as though they are doing something
about congestion, the Executive are proposing to damage or destroy
some of the best-loved places in Harrogate, to make way for their
road. It must not happen.
There are many reasons why the so-called Harrogate relief road is a
terrible idea, and some of them are set out below.
The so-called relief road shouldn't be on the table, having been
rejected by Harrogate area councillors on several occasions. It wouldn't
relieve congestion, but would increase traffic in the
Borough, and create ever more crawling queues on existing roads
and junctions. It would degrade
the precious Nidd Gorge, damaging a hugely popular place of
recreation and home for wildlife.
The road would lead to more pollution
from traffic. While London is restricting polluting traffic,
and prioritising clean air for people to breathe, NYCC's big idea
is more traffic and more pollution. As David Shukman's article
makes clear, that air pollution has even more damaging
effects than previously thought. It makes asthma worse, triggering
attacks, reduces lung capacity in children as they develop,
contributes to emphysema and bronchitis and lung cancer, blocks
arteries, increases the risk of stroke, heart disease, and heart
attacks, may cause dementia, reduces cognitive performance and may
trigger psychotic episodes in teenagers, and may explain why
babies in polluted areas are born prematurely.
Is that what we want for the people, and especially the children,
Any claim by NYCC that inducing more polluting traffic would
reduce air pollution is ridiculous and patently wrong. Whatever
the clever arguments to prove that black is white, nobody should
be taken in by them.
change is a crisis which is upon us now. It is happening
faster than predicted, and the effects are more severe. In that
context, building another road is exactly the wrong thing to be
doing. It is an irresponsible proposal by 'the Executive'.
I hope and believe that NYCC will get a clear and unequivocal
message that their congestion-generator road is not wanted. It's
no good assuming that everyone else will tell them; we all have to
do the most we can to make sure that this appalling project is
consigned to the dustbin.
Some people believe that motor traffic is like rainwater, and the
roads are drains for it. It has to go somewhere, and if you block
one route, it will flow along another. But as Andrew Gilligan has
explained, that isn't what happens in practice, because 'traffic
isn't a force of nature. It's a product of human choices...'
The idea that you can reduce congestion in a crowded town centre by
building a new road is false. It has been shown that new roads cause
increased traffic, and exacerbate congestion problems. A Harrogate
relief road would not relieve congestion. It would not work.
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
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. Now, there is a
keen sense of what we've lost already, and the present and future
threats facing our native wild creatures. As a result, we can no
longer plough ahead with damaging projects, without any regard to
our natural heritage.
Road-building is a very effective way to divide and degrade
wildlife sites. When we damage natural environments, we're ruining
them for the animals and birds that live in them, but for ourselves
too. If this road project were to happen in Bilton, it would be a
tragedy, not only for the local wildlife, but for the local people
Chris Boardman, Walking and Cycling Commissioner in Manchester,
produced a report called Made to Move, with a chapter entitled, 'The
Way we Travel is Killing us'. In it, he notes that there are 40,000
premature deaths from air pollution every year in the UK. Children
are suffering with asthma and other conditions, because of pollution
from vehicles; fast-moving traffic deters people from active travel,
and obesity is increasing as a result. Physical inactivity costs the
NHS in Manchester alone £500,000 per week.
Expanding and increasing travel by private motor vehicles is
exactly the opposite of what the Executive should be doing, for
public health reasons.
Climate change was the top story on the BBC website on 6th February
2019. We're heading for the warmest decade ever, according to the
Nobody should be in any doubt that we're destroying the habitable
climate in which civilisation developed, and upon which our plants
and animals depend - as we do, too.
We must tread lightly from now on, including travelling in the most
sustainable ways possible. Building a new road (through one of the
most treasured areas in Harrogate) is absolutely incompatible with a
responsible reaction to climate change.
'Over many many months, I have been concerned with the planning and
development of a 'relief road' for Harrogate.
The much publicised options - solutions provided by North Yorkshire
County Council - lack the courage, imagination and social
responsibility one would expect of elected officials.
We do not need another road!
We need a concerted, thoughtful, humane plan to improve the local
infrastructure. Cycle paths, child-friendly/secure school routes,
reduced speed limits, restricted HGV deliveries during peak times.
We need to think outside the box.
Of the five options suggested, select 'package B' please.
Physically and fiscally it is the most logical, responsible
solution. A solution which acknowledges the pressures on our roads
whilst providing answers that respect the landscape and the health
and well-being of the people living, working and playing in
Harrogate relief road: petition
Gorge Community Action is involved in saving the Nidd Gorge
and the Nidderdale Greenway, and is asking the people of Harrogate
and Knaresborough to get involved and help fight against the
damaging road project.
Mr Wilkinson explains how local residents have worked since 1983 to
conserve the Green Belt between Harrogate and the Nidd Gorge, in
partnership with Harrogate BC, the Woodland Trust, and the former
Countryside Commission. Their hard work means that there is now a
valuable mosaic of habitats and wildlife corridors. 43,500 broadleaf
trees have been planted in Bilton Fields.
Wildlife in and around the Gorge includes otters, kingfishers,
herons, eighteen species of fish, roe deer, red kites, buzzards,
owls, kestrels, and much more.
It would be a tragedy if 35 years of dedicated work to create
something wonderful were to be bulldozed away in a few weeks.
The two routes still being considered by NYCC sever public rights
of way and wildlife corridors, open the Green Belt to development,
and bisect farmland leaving it unviable for agriculture.
If Natural England can be persuaded to give the Nidd Gorge Site of
Special Scientific Interest status, that could help protect it.
To help with an environmental report, you can send your wildlife
sightings to email@example.com.
NYCC's transport consultants WSP have produced two reports relevant
to the so-called relief road: a Stage 1 Report, and an Addendum
The reports are long, and not everyone will want to read them. I
have highlighted the main points - the better sections of the
reports, and the occasions where WSP's case for the so-called relief
road doesn't stand up or is based on flawed assumptions. The most
critical of these flaws is WSP's failure to address induced demand,
which would mean more traffic and exacerbated congestion were the
road ever to be built.
Newport relief road scrapped on cost and environmental grounds
4th June 2019
The tide is finally turning against a 'sod the environment and do
it anyway' approach to road building.
Plans for an M4 relief road at Newport have been scrapped, reports the BBC. Welsh
First Minister Mark Drakeford decided against the new road on cost
and environmental grounds. 'In my opinion, the project's adverse
impacts on the environment...outweigh its advantages,' said
The road would have ruined the Gwent Levels; and as recently as
April, the Welsh government declared a climate emergency.
A consultation on options for reducing congestion in Harrogate and
Knaresborough is to include the so-called relief road, Stray
FM reports. The consultation is likely to begin in late
February 2019 and run for 10 weeks.
Councillor Don Mackenzie is quoted as saying that congestion is bad
for business and air pollution. In reality, nobody is in favour of
congestion and pollution. The problem is that the Councillor's
proposed solution is not a solution to congestion. Building another
road will induce more traffic, and exacerbate congestion and air
pollution. That point is never answered by proponents of the road,
presumably because it is unanswerable. They never address the point,
and hope that nobody will notice.
Councillor Mackenzie appears to be the driving force behind this
unwanted road project. His enthusiasm for generating more traffic in
this way sits uncomfortably with his role as North Yorkshire County
Council's Walking and Cycling Champion.
London had Andrew Gilligan. Manchester has Chris Boardman. In North
Yorkshire, I would like to see a Walking and Cycling Champion who is
committed to walking and cycling. Instead, we've got a Councillor
whose main enthusiasm is for a big new road project dedicated to the
motor car - despite the fact that it will have an extremely serious
negative impact on Harrogate's best walking and cycling route, the Nidderdale
In the 1970s, people thought that we should be building as much
capacity as required for the motor car, and it would improve our
quality of life. Gradually, it has become apparent that whatever
road capacity you build, it will fill up with cars - the demand is
insatiable. The result is traffic jams and air pollution. Meanwhile,
the places where we live and work are dominated motor cars which
bring danger and pollution, and spoil our quality of life. It's time
to do things differently.
Our county's Walking and Cycling Champion is a Councillor who is
still clinging to the discredited 'everything must make way for the
motor car' idea of the 1970s. I think it is terrific that NYCC has a
Walking and Cycling Champion, but it is incredibly disappointing
that the person who currently fulfils the role is wedded to the idea
of giving over ever more space to motorised transport. North
Yorkshire deserves better.
Meanwhile, the Harrogate Advertiser
quotes Harrogate BC leader Richard Cooper as saying that the
idea of building a relief road through the Nidd Gorge is 'surreal'
and a non-starter. He called it a sideshow, and said funding would
never be available. Once it is dismissed, we can 'get on with the
serious business of sustainable transport measures.'
Councillors reject relief road plan again
8th November 2018
At a North Yorkshire County Council/Harrogate & Knaresborough
Area Committee meeting today at the Cairn Hotel, councillors
rejected the relief road plan again.
Although not allowed to vote, the councillors made clear their
objections to the project, reports
the Harrogate Advertiser. The unwanted road could cut through
the Nidd Gorge, private houses, and Harrogate Golf Club. 'Can I
seriously raise my hand to the people and say I'm voting for that?'
asked Harrogate Borough Council leader Richard Cooper.
Councillors Don Mackenzie and Zoe Metcalfe were two dissenting
voices. They want the road proposal to go to public consultation.
Andrew Jones MP against road project
8th November 2018
The MP for Harrogate & Knaresborough, Andrew Jones, is opposed
to the relief road project.
the Harrogate Advertiser, 'I am strongly against a new relief
road as identified in the WSP report, and I want to preserve the
Nidd Gorge and I want to preserve the Greenway...It would be
incredibly damaging to huge areas of the landscape and the
'The reason I'm not in favour of the relief road option is that it
will be a road which bypasses the town. Figures show only a small
proportion of Harrogate and Knaresborough congestion is caused by
through traffic. We do not want a relief road weaving between
Knaresborough and Harrogate.'
'I am resolute in my opinion that this would cause lasting damage
to the beautiful and wonderful Nidd Gorge, as well as impacting on
householders and facilities in the area.'
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.
The Campaign for Rural England have shown that new road projects
generate extra traffic - over and above the increases which would
have happened otherwise. Their report is based on Highways England
data. This is relevant to the bypass which the county council is
seeking to impose on Harrogate & Knaresborough. Read about the
Impact of Roads report.