By Coun Don MacKenzie
In part 2 of the first of a new series The Way Ahead about Harrogate's traffic problems and various people's ideas on how to solve them, the Harrogate Advertiser’s Graham Chalmers talks to North Yorkshire County Councillor Don Mackenzie about his vision for the future on this subject.
Graham Chalmers: What about fears about a possible relief road through Bilton and potential damage to the Nidd Gorge and Nidderdale Greenway?
Coun Don MacKenzie: “I can understand them but believe that they are exaggerated. If the decision is eventually taken that a relief road should be part of a package of measures to reduce congestion, then we would need to determine the optimum alignment for that road.
“Early indications suggest that most of the road would be between 500m and 1km distant from the treeline of the Nidd Gorge. The closest it would get would be 200m away for a very short distance. There is no intention to put a road into the Nidd Gorge.
“A relief road would not destroy the Nidderdale Greenway. A road may cross the greenway at one point or run alongside it for a short distance, but the two would be separated and screened by landscaping.
“There is plenty of room for all three - Gorge, Greenway and road - to co-exist. “
GC: A relief road may be one option, but what about public and sustainable transport improvements? What form could they take?
DM: “There are many ways to support better public transport and to boost sustainable transport. NYCC is already engaged in doing this. We already spend almost £8m every year of taxpayers’ money on concessionary bus travel and £1.5m every year to subsidising bus routes. Harrogate and Knaresborough are already provided with excellent bus services and most of those have plenty of spare capacity.
“As far as trains are concerned: my Transport Talk column in this newspaper recently confirmed that NYCC and the North Yorkshire LEP plan to invest £12.5m in local rail upgrades to double the frequency and speed up journey times of services between Harrogate and York.
“NYCC is already working with cycling groups to improve facilities to encourage the greater use of bikes not just for leisure purposes, but also as means of transport to be chosen by our residents as they go about their daily lives, going to work and school, doing their shopping, visiting friends and relatives.
“Last month I chaired the first meeting of the Open Harrogate Steering Group, which will advise on a £500,000 programme of investment to promote cycling and walking and to change travel behaviour in Harrogate, funded by the county’s successful bid in 2017 to the Government’s Access Fund.
“NYCC has recently secured £4.6m worth of funding for various transport improvements along Otley Road in Harrogate, including a new, off-road cycle path from the Prince of Wales Roundabout up to Cardale Park.”
GC: Give me some examples of how you think travel behaviour can be changed.
DM: “We can put more investment into public transport and into further measures to boost sustainable means of travel like cycling and walking. These would be designed to make it more attractive to leave the car behind.
“The county council is already working with Harrogate Borough Council and the local Cycle Forum on developing various schemes, including an off-road route between Harrogate and Knaresborough.
“Some councils have decided to introduce a range of other measures to persuade people to leave their cars at home. These normally take the form of reductions in town centre parking spaces and steep rises in parking charges.”
In future weeks, The Way Ahead will feature the views of the business community, environmental campaigners and other groups.