One of Britain's leading nature conservation groups has organised a ‘Save Nidd Gorge’ protest walk this weekend in Harrogate as the deadline looms in the county council’s controversial traffic congestion consultation.
With less than two weeks to go before North Yorkshire County Council’s public survey on Harrogate and Knaresborough congestion closes on July 8, the Woodland Trust says there is one idea which should be utterly rejected - a relief road from Bilton to Forest Lane near Nidd Gorge.
Jack Taylor, lead campaigner at The Woodland Trust, which was formed in 1972 with 500,000 supporters nationwide, said: “Destroying and fragmenting ancient woodland around Bilton Fields and the Nidderdale Greenway, which can never be replaced, is totally unacceptable.
“These woods are wonderful for wildlife. At least 40 species of bird have been recorded in the area, including kingfishers and goshawks, as well as weasels, bank voles and an abundance of beautiful ground flora. They are beautiful places to visit and the trees are essential for combating pollution.
“Road schemes that destroy ancient woodland and the natural environment aren’t a sustainable solution to traffic problems.”
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The ‘Save Nidd Gorge’ walk is expected to be attended by local Nidd Gorge campaign groups, Harrogate and Knaresborough MP Andrew Jones and renowned Harrogate nature writer Rob Cowen whose award-winning Common Ground book was set in Nidd Gorge.
Mr Cowen said: “I will be at the march on Saturday as I believe the idea of destroying the unique natural and human history of this special area for a ‘relief road’ which will do the opposite of what is intended is nothing short of madness.”
The trust is advising residents to vote against a relief road in question 15 of the council’s online survey.
And it has also launched its own online petition to ‘Protect Bilton Beck & Nidd Gorge’.
Meanwhile Keith Wilkinson, honorary secretary of Bilton Conservation Group which was first formed on May 19, 1982 to protect Nidd Gorge and the Green. Belt separating Harrogate from Knaresborough, said he, too, would be supporting the Woodland Trust's walk this Saturday
Factfile: Where & when is the ‘Save Nidd Gorge’ walk taking place?
This Saturday’s protest walk will start from Nidd Gorge viaduct at 11am.
People joining it from Ripley are advised to meet at 10am at Ripley Car Park from where they will walk as a group along the Nidderdale Greenway.
The walk will proceed along the Nidderdale Greenway to Nidd Viaduct and Nidd Gorge.
Factfile: Public consultation on Harrogate/Knaresborough traffic congestion
There have been more than 10,000 responses to North Yorkshire County Council’s online public survey so far.
After the July 8 deadline, responses will form the basis of a report to NYCC’s Harrogate and Knaresborough Area Constituency Committee on August 29, and to the Skipton and Ripon ACC on September 6. A decision will be taken by the NYCC executive at the end of this year.
Factfile: What North Yorkshire County Council says about the relief road idea
The county council has always been keen to point out that the controversial Bilton to Forest Lane ‘relief road’ idea is just one option in online public survey on attitudes to traffic congestion in Harrogate and Knaresborough.
The consultation follows the formulation of the Harrogate Congestion Study which identified two possible packages.
One package is comprised of a raft of ‘green’ measures to discourage car use in Harrogate, while the other includes more sustainable measures plus also the possibility of a new Killinghall bypass and a new ‘relief road’ through from Bilton to Forest Lane near Nidd Gorge. The county council argues a relief road is just one of many options and that it would help reduce road congestion.
Factfile: What Bilton's main champion of the greenbelt says
Keith Wilkinson, honorary secretary of Bilton Conservation Group, said:
"This story goes all the way back to In 1984/1986 when developers wanted access to the Statutory Green Belt behind Bogs Lane/Henshaws College as well as the 90 acres of the ‘Bilton Triangle’ (at 400 acres in total).
"The latest charade is for North Yorkshire County Council (alone, since Harrogate Borough Council does not support it) to dress the proposal up as a ‘Relief Road’, when its own statistics do not support it.
"Moreover they avoid any assessment of the Potential Induced Traffic.
"The simple reality, if you plough through all the NYCC minutes and strategies, is that they want the A59 upgrade from Skipton to Harrogate + ‘Northern ByPass (original and correct title)’ to the A1M.....as their contribution to the Northern Powerhouse and an alternative corridor to the M62. "
"If the county council had been more transparent from the outset they would have known their plans were unacceptable and they could have saved the Harrogate’s ratepayers £400,000 on a wasted exercise."