A Harrogate County Councillor has taken on the responsibilty for highways across the county following a reshuffle.
County Coun Don Mackenzie (Con, Saltergate) has taken on a newly designed Access portfolio which included passenger transport, broadband and highways, which he was previously under the control of Coun Gareth Dadd (Con, Thirsk) following a meeting last night (Wednesday May 20).
This comes after relations between Harrogate motorists and the county council have soured in recent years, and the council has been heavily critised over recent junction changes and roadworks.
Coun Mackenzie said: “I know that I am responsibile for the whole county and will face issues from Craven, Whitby, all over.
“However with regard to Harrogate I want to end the view concerned people have that it is being overlooked and do everything to make improvements.
“We have got to remember this is the biggest county in England and I am responsible for all of that but there are special considerations as far as Harrogate town centre is concerned.
“People see Northallerton as so far removed from Harrogate and think that the county council doesn’t understand the problems we face in the town, that isn’t an accusation that can be leveled at me. I have lived in Harrogate since 1973, I know the town, I know the roads.”
Coun Mackenzie also serves on Harrogate Borough Council and was the executive member for roads and highways at the council when it was the responsibility of the district.
“I am hoping this gives people in Harrogate the comfort of knowing Harrogate is a priority.”
Former Executive Member for Highways, Coun Dadd has faced a barrage of criticism from Harrogate Advertiser readers over the past year, and rarely a month has gone by without a mention of highways issued in the paper’s letters pages, however Coun Mackenzie said he believed Coun Dadd, now deputy leader of North Yorkshire County Council did a great job in the role.
He said: “I do not believe that he didn’t spend time here or didn’t understand, I know he spent a great deal of time in Harrogate and did a lot of work for the town.”
One of the most contentious issues has been the problems with the junction on Leeds Road and Hookstone Road which was changed when M&S Simply Food was built on the former Nidd motors garage site at the junction.
Motorists faced months of traffic chaos as the work was carried out, and even when it was completed last summer, residents and shopkeepers complained that traffic is still a problem.
Some tweaks have been made, however NYCC suggested in a draft report that removing car parking from outside the Oatlands Parade of shops would solve the traffic problems, leading to an outcry from traders on the street and nearby residents.
Coun Mackenzie acknowledged that this was one of the first issues he needs to address.
He said: “Clearly anyone can pick up the phone and speak to me about this, or any other issues, but I do believe that the county council has always consulted quite well.
“I understand the Leeds Road traders don’t feel this way, maybe they didn’t gather themselves as a definite group before as they do now.”
The county council is still wrangling with Tesco over the roadworks needed for the planned superstore off Skipton Road.
Tesco had originally proposed turning Skipton Road into a one way road for 10 months, however the council sent them back to the drawing board after a public outcry.
Coun Mackenzie said: “I was leader of HBC when Tesco got its planning permission, I have got the background knowledge and know what needs to be done.
“Although we are ready for a certain degree of disruption, and accept that there will be some work needed, we need to make sure it is kept to a minimum.”
Harrogate and Knaresborough’s Conservative MP, Andrew Jones was given a junior government role in the Department of Transport last week, following his victory at the polls.
Coun Mackenzie said this can only be a positive for the area.
He said: “I am looking forward to working with him. Looking at big picture stuff like a bypass or a the rail network, things that need Government support, we can now work together on those things.
“When it comes to the bypass, that is clearly something I have been talking about for a long time, it is an important idea that needs to be explored.
“If we want to improve the traffic situation in Harrogate we will have to improve things throughout the Harrogate district and this might require something bigger like a bypass.”
l Have you any questions for the new Executive Member for Highways? Email firstname.lastname@example.org