A major new cycle path project in Harrogate to boost sustainable transport has been likened to “Harrogate’s own version of Brexit.”
Hopes were high when North Yorkshire County Council announced at the end of last year that it planned £4.6million of transport works, including improvements to junctions on Otley Road and a new off-road cycle route on both sides of Otley Road, connecting Cardale Park with the Prince of Wales roundabout, to encourage ‘sustainable travel’ to and from work.
The county council had successfully secured the necessary funding as part of the Government’s National Productivity Investment Fund (NPIF) with works planned for 2018.
But the speed of progress is being challenged on all sides as the county council seeks to please local cycling groups, local residents who live off Otley Road and volunteers who protect the Stray.
One group, Harlow & Pannal Ash Residents Association, has become so frustrated by the process, it submitted its own Freedom of Information request to find out what was happening.
HAPARA tweeted the whole matter had become “Harrogate’s own version of Brexit.”
While supportive of sustainable transport measures, the Stray Defence Association has been worried about losing land throughout.
But another interested party, Harrogate and District Cycle Forum and Cycle Action, said it was important to encourage people to travel to work and school by bike to reduce congestion.
Even though it has long lobbied for an expanded and segregated cycle path from Cardale Park all the way to Knaresborough, it remained confident of a good outcome for all.
Kevin Douglas, the chair of HDCA, said: “The county council’s original programme was very optomistic given the issues involved.
"It is way behind and, with the World Road Race Championships route in this area its likely there will be further delays in getting this work done.
“It’s disappointing but, as long as the funding dealine is met then we can wait for a quality scheme to be provided.
“But the county council needs to make the timetable clearer as to when the scheme will happen. We have no idea at the moment where the whole scheme is.”
The latest news on the project is that the first leg of the project, from Prince of Wales to Harlow Moor Road, now plans to stop at Beech Grove without reaching the roundabout itself.
Details of the second major leg from Harlow Moor Road to Cardale Park have yet to emerge.
But North Yorkshire County Council’s Executive Member for Highways, Coun Don Mackenzie, said progress was being made.
He said: “The NPIF-funded improvements for the Otley Road area are to be delivered by 2020. We are confident that we will achieve this deadline."
As for the shortening of the first part of the route, Coun Mackenzie said: "There are considerable advantages in stopping at Beech Grove with the possibility of linking to the town centre by means of a much safer route than via the PoW Roundabout and the A61."
Coun Mackenzie also said worries that the new cycle paths would not be completed in time for the arrival in Harrogate next September of the World Road Race Championships were completely misplaced.
Coun Mackenzie said: "These road races will take place on the road. As far as the Harrogate Circuit is concerned, no cycle path is needed."