Transport Talk column with Don Mackenzie
At last Thursday's meeting of the NYCC Harrogate Area Committee county councillors received an update from highways officers on the start of work to look into whether we need a Harrogate relief road and, if so, what are possible route options.
About 100 members of the public attended. Eight people were given the opportunity to speak to the committee.
They expressed concerns about a route between Harrogate and Knaresborough, and that no formal public consultation had yet taken place.
The overall message from this group of residents was that a new road was not the solution to the problems of congestion in Harrogate and Knaresborough.
The Area Committee chairman, Cllr Michael Harrison, made it clear that this was only the very start of the process and that there would be extensive public consultation prior to a preferred route, if any, being identified.
I repeat what I have stated in an earlier Transport Talk:
Each step we take on this project will be made public by regular media updates from NYCC Communications and this column.
We also intend to keep our website regularly updated.
Here is the link: http://www.northyorks.gov.uk/hrr
This webpage has been expanded, and now includes several FAQs (frequently asked questions).
There are two fundamental questions which will need to be answered:
1. Do residents believe that we need improved highways infrastructure, or can we manage with what we have for the next 20 years or so?
2. If we do proceed with a bid for a new road, which route would provide the most effective way to reduce congestion in and around the two towns?
I remind readers that the County Council began this work in order to address rising levels of congestion on our existing road network, and to respond to calls from residents and businesses that we take action to improve traffic and travel conditions and air quality in Harrogate and Knaresborough.
It is 25 years since any fundamental road upgrade took place when the Southern Bypass was completed.
Plans for a Western Bypass had also been drawn up at that time but threats of legal action forced planners to abandon them.
Since then, no further substantive upgrading of our local highways infrastructure has taken place even though thousands of new homes have been built in the meantime, and many more will continue to be built in the future.
Sunday parking charges in Harrogate Town Centre
The new parking charges started on Sunday 13 November. This was, of course, Remembrance Sunday, and thousands of us attended the service at the War Memorial.
The town was packed with visitors who had come to pay their respects. No parking tickets were issued.
Pedestrian crossing on Cheltenham Parade and Station Parade
As indicated in my column in July, changes were planned for pedestrian users of the four-way crossing next to the bus station.
These included re-locating the red/green signals to the far side of the road, and allowing pedestrians to cross Cheltenham Parade when traffic on Lower Station Parade has a green light. These changes duly took place overnight on Wednesday 9 November. Initial comments have been very favourable.
This crossing facility has proved to be very safe, and there have been no recorded accidents involving users since it was installed almost two years ago.
The message for pedestrians is simple: cross when you have a green light in front of you.
Drivers have to contend with multiple sets of traffic lights and pelican crossings from the bottom of Cheltenham Parade up to the top of Station Parade.
It is annoying but such controls are necessary on this major A-road as it cuts through the town centre, which is full of pedestrians who wish to cross the road in safety.
The NYCC Highways team is already well into its winter gritting schedules.
Harrogate had its first snowfall on Wednesday 9 November and Priority 1 routes were gritted twice by 11am that morning. Barns and bins are fully stocked with 55,000t of grit salt.
We have increased our fleet of gritting vehicles to 93. In addition we have 12 snow blowers and 150 snow ploughs including those used by contractors and farmers, whose services we buy in.
The budget for the winter service is £6m although the county spent as much as £10m in the severe winters of 2009 and 2010. NYCC routinely treats 2,800 miles of highway, which is 50% of the total, and the highest percentage of any local authority.