Residents of the Harrogate and Knaresborough areas could be asked for their views on new ideas to tackle traffic problems including a new relief road as early as next month.
After Harrogate area county councillors, including Harrogate Borough Council leader Richard Cooper, rejected any measures that would include a new relief road in the Nidd Gorge area in November, North Yorkshire County Council's executive is now set to meet to next Tuesday, January 15 to progress the issue.
Members will decide whether to consult the public on the findings of a major new study of the towns’ congestion problems.
The meeting follows a second report by independent consultants WSP commissioned by North Yorkshire County Council to review the causes and impact of congestion and to consider ideas for solutions.
The report sets out two packages of options.
The first looks at managing demand and encouraging behavioural change, including developments in public transport and the cycling and walking infrastructure, measures to improve journey planning, extended pedestrianisation in central Harrogate, a congestion or low-emission zone, speed and weight limits and optimising the existing road network.
The second contains similar measures plus the option of an inner relief road, which could run through the Nidd Gorge area.
County councillor Don Mackenzie, executive member for access, said: “In compiling this study, our officers and consultants have listened to local county councillors and the views of interested local parties via an engagement group, which met several times last summer.
"The executive will now decide whether to consult the 48,000 households in the Harrogate and Knaresborough area about the options in the two packages.
“It should be stressed that we are at an early stage of what will be a long process. No decision has been taken on any option or package in the report.
"At this point, we are considering only whether to put forward these options in a public consultation.”
Harrogate and Knaresborough MP Andrew Jones, who is also a transport minister, is firmly against any new relief road in the Nidd Gorge area, not merely on environmental grounds but because figures in the county council's first report showed it would not actually reduce town centre congestion enough to justify ruining a historic nature spot.
Local campaigners against a relief road fear the real reason for considering a new road has nothing to do with congestion in Harrogate town centre and everything to do with encouraging economic development, more housing and improved transport links between Lancashire and the east coast.
The county council's first congestion report in late 2017 was put up for discussion only by Harrogate and Knaresborough county councillors.
The second report has also been to Skipton and Ripon area county councillors who in December overwhelmingly voiced support for keeping a road relief option on the table for public consultation.
If approved, the public consultation could begin in late February and run for ten weeks.