A Harrogate councillor has called for a key Harrogate beauty spot to be given special status as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) to protect it from future development.
The Nidd Gorge and the surrounding countryside have been at the centre of a high profile campaign following North Yorkshire County Council decision to include the possible idea of a relief road through the area to form part of its Harrogate Congestion Study.
The campaign against the relief road has united councillors of all parties in the Harrogate area, including the MP, borough council leader, local residents and environmental pressure groups as the county council's deadline for its online public consultation about traffic congestion closes on Monday, July 8.
Now Coun Paul Haslam (Conservative, Old Bilton), whose ward covers much of the Nidd Gorge area, has called for long-term protection from the area.
Councillor Haslam said: “The Nidd Gorge is special. It consists of five ancient woodlands, 80 species of birds, 30 kinds of reptiles, mammals and amphibians as well as plants, fungi and flowers unique to ancient woodlands.
“That it doesn’t enjoy the kind of protection enjoyed by the countryside in Nidderdale is bizarre. That is why I want to designate the area as a new Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty or have it included as an extension of the nearby Nidderdale AONB.”
Coun Haslam has written to Natural England Chairman and well-known naturalist, Tony Juniper CBE asking for his proposal to be considered.
Coun Haslam’s initiative comes at a time when Natural England are concluding a review of Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
He said: “I want to harness the community energy generated by the Harrogate Congestion Study into a positive force to permanently protect the Nidd Gorge.
"Over the coming weeks I will be seeking to persuade local politicians, the public and environmental groups to get behind the proposal."