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 vote was ignored by the Executive, who decided
to push ahead with it.
Committee meeting on Thursday 15th March 2018 received an
update, and a petition from the Nidd Gorge Community Action Group.
Harrogate BC council leader Richard
Cooper said that the Executive had ignored the Area Committee and
its December 2017 vote. 'For the first time in 19 years as an
elected councillor, I feel like I have been ignored, and that's not
a healthy place to be.'
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 '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; 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.
A sparrow sings on Bilton Lane
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.
This is one
reason why a Harrogate relief road is a terrible idea.
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
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. Road-building is a
very effective way to divide and degrade wildlife sites, and kill
When we damage natural environments, we're ruining them for the
animals and birds that live there, but for ourselves too.
Here's a second
reason why a Harrogate relief road is a terrible idea.
Chart from Public Health England report on road transport and
Harrogate relief road: letter to the Yorkshire Post
Post published a well-argued letter about the idea of a
Harrogate relief road in December 2017, which I think is worth
'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, tboughtful, 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.
The group has a petition
to save Nidd Gorge and the Nidderdale Greenway, with over
3,000 signatures at the time of writing (July 2018).
Harrogate relief road: Woodland Trust
Little owl, Bilton Lane, June 2018
In January 2018, Keith
Wilkinson MBE wrote an article about the Nidd Gorge for the
Woodland Trust, which owns part of the Nidd Gorge.
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 the Gorge and the Fields 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.