Pannal and Burn Bridge parishioner questions:
“I’m here because I’m fed up with the congestion in our area” (West of Harrogate) (100%). It became apparent that there exists a considerable and common feeling of frustration and anxiety – not just arising from the congestion difficulties experienced currently but also a feeling of great despondency that with the 3-4000 new houses to be built in the western arc area that if no effective measures are implemented the situation will become intolerable on a daily basis - but also doubt (based on practical experience) that any remedial measures will actually prove effective – even if their concerns are listened to.
Of the replies to reasons why congestion is a problem, responses were split –
Effects of new housing ignored by NYCC / continuing rat runs need improvement / environmental damage and air quality are issues for us too and not just for those in Harrogate and Knaresborough. Insufficient parking at stations increases congestion.
Sustainability measures (for our patch) were considered unviable by many unless direct links to train and bus services were available. This has not been planned.
Key questions were:
1) Why was there no representation from any public body or community group having views concerning the West of Harrogate in the original congestion study when self-interest groups were deemed to be key consultees?
(Responses in “red” made by NYCC Highways)
As part of the initial development of the congestion study in 2017 WSP (then Mouchel) on behalf of the County Council consulted over 100 local interest groups in the Harrogate and Knaresborough whether by e mail or through offers of a face to face meeting. This included residents’ associations from across the whole of Harrogate including the west of Harrogate. Unfortunately, due to a technology fault the exact details of who was contacted at each of the residents’ associations has been lost.
2) Why was a Western bypass summarily dismissed by NYCC? The congestion problem to the West of Harrogate existed more than 20 years ago and it has worsened and will continue to do so.
A western bypass option was considered, but the amount of traffic relief it provided to the A61 and associated ‘rat runs’ was very low (generally less than 5%) and the costs would potentially be high (we estimate c£100m). On that basis it would not be a viable option (cost to benefit would be low) and funding would be unlikely from DfT. One of the main issues is that the potential diversion that would be required to go ‘around’ Harrogate on a western bypass would take longer than the shorter but slower route through the town
3) Why then, has not one single measure been proposed to mitigate congestion to the West of Harrogate? To suggest a park and ride be sited at the former Dunlopillo site is ridiculous and therefore unsupportable!
Most of the measures suggested (with the exception of the relief road) would be implemented across the towns and would therefore have a beneficial impact to some extent on the west of Harrogate. Whilst the Dunlopillo site may not now be available for P&R we would investigate other potential sites adjacent to the A61. In addition, we have already given a commitment at the exhibitions to ‘have a look’ at possible shorter bypass routes linking A61 to Otley Road area.
It is also relevant that the West of Harrogate National Productivity Investment Fund (NPIF) scheme on Otley Road will reduce congestion on Otley Road and hence probably / possible reduce rat running through the SW of Harrogate area.
4) It would appear that the cost profile of the Western bypass, in its original form, was the only measure considered by NYCC. A shorter road or alternative has not even been considered by NYCC. Why not? Even WSP consultants were unaware of the reports generated by other traffic consultants showing that the current road system already has junctions “operating” at over 100% capacity.
See above. The benefits to cost ratio for a western route would be very low and so DfT would be unlikely to fund it. However, as noted above, we have already made a commitment at the exhibitions to ‘consider’ possible shorter bypass routes linking A61 to Otley Road area.
5) Why has NYCC or its traffic consultants ignored the fact that - whatever improvements to roadways may be made to the lanes to the west of Pannal and Burn Bridge - there are pinch points that cannot be mitigated as they involve single lane bridges?
NYCC have not investigated at this time the details of any improvements to the lanes west of Pannal. However single lane bridges are not necessarily an unsurmountable problem as they can be widened or new bridges provided.
6) How does NYCC plan to accommodate traffic from 3000 to 4000 homes on the Western side of Harrogate attempting to get to Leeds and Bradford? This is the equivalent of a new settlement!
Our plan, as it stands, does not accommodate traffic from currently unapproved developments. It is for HBC / developers to demonstrate how the impact can be mitigated but we will, and are, working with HBC on this.
7) Why is a relief road to the North/East of Harrogate/Knaresborough even considered for 7% of vehicles when a far higher percentage of drivers cannot negotiate lanes to the West of Harrogate without severe delays?
The relief road that we are putting forward as an option is intended to deal mainly with the internal redistribution of internal traffic (which is approximately 48%), or traffic which starts or ends in Harrogate and Knaresborough, but also goes out of the district (c 45%) rather than the quoted 7% totally external traffic. Please see above for Western Bypass comments and shorter A61 to Otley Road route.
8) Is it true that the already costed and agreed roundabout at the junction of the A61 and Burn Bridge Lane has been cancelled because there hasn’t been a death or serious injury at the junction for a couple of years? There have been plenty of accidents but maybe few or none with emergency service involvement, hence they’re not recorded in accident statistics.
You will be aware, from my previous comments that indications are that the latest ghost island and deceleration lane scheme has reduced the injury accidents significantly and that a roundabout scheme is no longer needed. The ‘issue’ with a roundabout scheme (apart from affordability) is that it is likely to encourage more rat running as it would remove the disincentive of a priority junction and long queues to get out onto the A61. It would also interrupt the A61 flows causing more delays to A61 traffic. With regards to the NPIF funds, which you had also requested an update on, the likely enhancements are an improved junction arrangement at Harlow Moor Road. This provides greater capacity and is therefore a longer-term solution. In addition, it will also allow provision of more TOUCAN crossings on the Otley Road cycle track and minimise the need for ‘on road’ sections of cycle route.
9) Why is the A61, Harrogate’s primary route from the South, such a disgrace?
The County Council from various sources spends approximately £50m per year on maintaining the 9000k network of roads in the County. This is substantially more than our ‘allocation’ from Government as the County Council has been very successful in seeking additional funding for Highway maintenance. The A61, like all other roads in the County is maintained to an appropriate standard given the available funding levels. It should be noted that it is likely that there will be a major maintenance scheme on the A61 south of Harrogate included in next year’s programme
10) Despite apparently only one person in the whole of Harrogate thinking the Oatlands A61 / Leadhall Lane junction works satisfactorily, why has nothing been done to improve it other than tinkering with traffic light sequence timing changes? Even HBC’s own traffic consultants state it cannot be mitigated in its present form.
The signals at the junction of Leeds Rd / Hookstone Rd were installed in 2014. Vehicle detection at this junction is via inductive loops installed in the carriageway surface and using above-ground video units. The Microprocessor Optimised Vehicle Actuation (MOVA) signal control strategy is used, so that signal timings adapt and vary continuously throughout the day in response to traffic conditions/demand to maximise efficiency. The junction is continually monitored by the NYCC traffic signals team and timings can and are changed as and when there is an identified need to do so.
The current junction layout is designed as the best possible to maximise capacity given the highway extents and physical constraints. Any substantial improvement to the junction would require major financial investment and land take, both of which are not achievable at this time.
In addition: questions arising from HAPARA (Harlow & Pannal Ash Residents Association):
1. The material presented at the road show sessions gave no indication whatsoever of the real benefits that could be expected to accrue from any of the incursions. Everything was high level, and the (NYCC) questionnaire was constructed in such a way as to almost lead people to a conclusion, which we in Harlow & Pannal Ash Residents Association (HAPARA) believe to be Package B. So how can people really be expected to provide constructive answers to the study questionnaire when there are no real facts available?
The consultation is an early stages consultation and intended to gather people’s views on what they would like us to do in general terms, not on specific schemes. The suggested interventions could all be implemented area wide, and as such, none are location specific.
2. The relief road incursion contained in Package E has resulted in a level of opposition that has, to a large extent, swamped all other debate. How will you ensure that the views contained in the letter sent to you, on behalf of the western arc of Harrogate, in April of this year, are accounted for? As we see it Packages B & E will do very little to resolve traffic problems on the western arc.
All views submitted as part of the consultation will be reported to the County Council’s decision makers. Any response from HAPARA will be reported to elected members.
3. At the Local Plan hearings held in January and February of this year, Harrogate Borough Council (HBC) Traffic Department seemed to indicate that discussions were at an advanced stage concerning Park & Ride and additional bus services to help offset the anticipated increase in traffic resulting from the nearly 4000 houses to be built on the western arc. However, the congestion questionnaire gives the impression that we are at an early stage on these improvements. So where exactly do matters stand on these improvements, given that public transport is not within the council`s gift?
Under existing legislation, as you point out, the County Council can generally only procure the operation of general bus services (under subsidy) where it can be proven there is an established social need to do so. However, we are able to commission and run Park and & Ride services. However, with regards to the specifics around the Harrogate Borough Council proposals, I am not aware of what stage the discussions are at, as they have not included NYCC in these. On this basis, it might be wise for a discussion to be set up with HBC’s local plan team.
4. Can you ensure that in future we do not have to go through a similar process to the one we experienced concerning the Otley Road cycle path? No prior consultations took place with the immediate residents and businesses, and we were in effect presented with a fait accompli. Surely, if cycling is to play a part in helping to reduce congestion in Harrogate, then the residents need to be involved - and not just the cycling fraternity! After all, this is what Department for Transport (DfT) guidance on the introduction of cycling paths states should be done.
As a result of the Otley Road cycle route scheme the County Council are looking at how it can amend its consultation processes to engage with local communities at an earlier stage whilst not raising unnecessary expectations or concerns about schemes which may never get funded.
5. Given that our local MP has come out strongly against the relief road incursion, and strongly for sustainability, then are we facing an inevitable final congestion study decision based on Package B?
The decision on which, if any, of the elements we develop further will be based on the findings of the congestion study engagement. This will be reported to elected members and they will ultimately decide what our next steps will be. Whilst the views of the local MP will be included in the analysis of the engagement, they are only one of many.
6. Whatever the final decision on the congestion study, what `groundwork` has been carried out by North Yorkshire County Council (NYCC) to ensure that monies will be forthcoming? Or will this be yet another study left to collect dust? It is appreciated that cases have to be made to obtain such monies, but can we assume that some initial inquiries have been made?
There are a number of funding streams for major schemes (TfN, Major Road Network, Large Local Majors) and a relief road package would meet the criteria for these in principal. DfT will not normally give advice on acceptability prior to submission of an SOBC. For the smaller-scale options, funding is likely to come from a series of bids into ad hoc opportunities (e.g. National Productivity Investment Fund (NPIF)) for packages of c£5m. NYCC in the past have been very successful with such bids. NYCC will also discuss with DfT the potential to develop a package approach to a major scheme of smaller measures – this would be somewhat innovative, but is another option for funding which we will explore.
7. School trips contribute significantly to congestion at peak times. Where in the package of measures is any intervention designed to reduce these?
It is our view that the impact of school trips is, in general, overstated. This is demonstrated in the evening peak which is as bad, or worse, as the morning peak but has no school trips in it. Reduced traffic during school holidays is also as a result of commuters being on holiday. Nevertheless there is little if anything NYCC can do about school trips as ‘parental choice’ is a legal right. It is our understanding that all schools in Harrogate and Knaresborough are academies so NYCC has minimal influence.
8. Regarding the role of the MP in all this, some interventions, e.g. to increase bus services and school bus entitlement, require central government action. What lobbying is being done by NYCC to get the necessary powers?
Currently no specific lobbying is being undertaken – however, should there be a sufficient level of support through the engagement for improvements to bus services, this is something that will be reported to elected members.
In addition: questions from North Rigton Parish Council
1. A Park and Ride in the Pannal area will not serve the housing planned for the West of Harrogate. It may alleviate some traffic movements from Leeds & Bradford, but how many of these journeys will culminate on the bus route or the bus station? Was this question asked in the surveys of drivers?
The roadside interview surveys did ask exact origins and destinations of drivers so we can if we need to determine what trips would be in scope for a P&R. In addition to this, should there be a level of support for park and ride identified through the congestion study engagement, this is something that we will investigate further, and will look at a variety of possible sites throughout the study area.
2. There is no evidence of where the traffic goes to or comes from beyond the junctions assessed in the mapped area. Where is the evidence gathered from the wider study which we were assured had been undertaken?
Much of this is available in the Stage 1 Report, Options Assessment Report and Options Assessment Report Addendum, which is available on our website, and also on the ‘Further Information’ section of the Harrogate Congestion Engagement web pages. The level of information gathered through the roadside interview surveys is so detailed that it is not feasible to present it all but it is all included in the traffic model.
3. The entire study is about Harrogate and to a lesser extent Knaresborough. Footpaths which do exist, are not maintained and in places are impassable. If people are to be encouraged to walk, run, or cycle to work, the maintenance of existing infrastructure might be a good start. Who could safely run, walk or cycle along the A658 between Huby & Buttersyke Bar? But this is outside the area of study! Many experienced runners and cyclists would not contemplate taking such actions.
The main purpose and focus of the study has always been about addressing congestion on the main routes into and through Harrogate. However, as indicated, we will consider the issue of rat running in the ‘western arc’. Footways / footpaths on the A658 corridor are less pertinent to this study as their impact on congestion would be negligible. However, we will raise this with our Area Office team, as an operational issue.
P&BBPC / HAPARA / NRigtonPC