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Harrogate relief road

Harrogate relief road

Bilton Lane now, and how it could look if made into a relief road

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.

An Area 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 traffic.

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 effect.

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.

Harrogate relief road: why it's a terrible idea 1 - it won't relieve congestion

Sparrow, Bilton Lane

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.

Harrogate relief road: why it's a terrible idea 2 - destroying nature

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 residents.

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 individual animals.

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.

Harrogate relief road: why it's a terrible idea 3 - the way we travel is killing us

Public Health England road transport chart

Chart from Public Health England report on road transport and active travel

Harrogate relief road: letter to the Yorkshire Post

The Yorkshire Post published a well-argued letter about the idea of a Harrogate relief road in December 2017, which I think is worth reproducing here.

'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.'

Harrogate relief road: petition

Nidd Gorge

Nidd 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

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 niddgorge@gmail.com.

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

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