'Secrecy' row over Harrogate's congestion problems

Coun Don Mackenzie, North Yorkshire County Councils executive member for highways and passenger transport.
Coun Don Mackenzie, North Yorkshire County Councils executive member for highways and passenger transport.

A row has broken over the way North Yorkshire County Council is handling possible plans to tackle Harrogate’s traffic congestion which may include sustainable measures and/or a new relief road.

Liberal Democrat Coun Geoff Webber for the Bilton & Nidd Gorge ward has criticised the private nature of meetings by the engagement group for the Harrogate and Knaresborough Congestion Study, accusing the council of ‘secrecy’.

But one of the key figures from the county council involved in the issue, Coun Don Mackenzie, executive member for highways and passenger transport, has pledged the work of the Engagement Group will be a key part of a county council report to be prepared on solving traffic congestion next month.

Coun Webber said: “Whilst I understand why these may be classified as “private” meetings from which the public are excluded I completely fail to understand why the dates and locations of such meetings are treated as “secret”.
“The fact that these details are kept secret can only foster an atmosphere of conspiracy and pre-determination.
“I believe that we should be as open as possible and that this obfuscation is both unnecessary and unacceptable.”

Coun Mackenzie said: “None of the engagement group members were asked to keep dates and venues of meetings secret, but those meetings were private in the sense of not being open to the public.
“Addressing the problems of congestion and poor air quality is very important for every resident and business in the Harrogate area.
“The county council is doing that. Party politics and ridiculous claims about ‘secrecy’, ‘conspiracy and pre-determination’ should not be part of this process. “

The county council’s strategy on dealing with congestion has created fear in some Harrogate community groups of a new relief road near popular nature spot Nidd Gorge.

A stormy meeting of the Harrogate Area Committee of North Yorkshire County Council at the Cairn Hotel last December saw local councillors voting to reject a relief road in favour of sustainable measures.

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