Harrogate Relief Road Steering Group member raises air pollution concerns

Harrogate traffic
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A member of the Harrogate Relief Road Steering Group has raised concerns that any new infrastructure could lead to increased amounts of air pollution.

The Steering Group is currently assessing the traffic advantages against environmental disadvantages of four potential route options for the £70m relief road.

Coun Rebecca Burnett, cabinet member for Planning and Sustainable Transport, is one of three councillors sitting on the group to determine if and where a relief road is appropriate.

Sustainable transport initiatives will also be considered as part of the Steering Group’s work but Coun Burnett has revealed she remains sceptical about the scheme.

She warned that while a relief road may solve a problem by easing traffic congestion, it may exacerbate existing issues around the district’s air quality.

“If we take existing traffic on the road and put it on a relief road to ease congestion then this may spark a culture change,” Coun Burnett said.

“People who don’t normally drive may start doing so and we want to encourage people to do the opposite and use sustainable transport measures.

“At the moment my view is that sustainable measures are the answer, I’m a little bit sceptical about whether a relief road will help in the long term.

“I’m not against it, we don’t know yet if the evidence and the work that is being done shows that a relief road or sustainable transport is the best option.”

Air pollution has been an increasing issue across the district with AQMA’s already being declared in Bond End, Low and High Skellgate and York Place.

A broad range of sustainable transport measures are being considered by the Steering Group including a number of cycling and walking initiatives.

The group will also examine additional bus routes as well as a potential park and ride scheme.

Coun Burnett said: “It’s important to emphasise that we are very early on in the process and it could be that a relief road built in a certain way could make those AQMA areas better.

“It’s also a possibility that if the road encourages drivers in certain locations to use certain junctions then it could make it worse.

“It’s all being looked into but I would not support something that would make air quality problems worse.

“It’s not just moving cars from one place to another, it’s a case of can we resolve congestion without encouraging more driving.”

Early traffic surveys have suggested that an Inner Northern Relief Road would provide the greatest possible reduction in traffic of the four options.

The initial basic cost estimate for a relief road is around £70m - £100m and, should this proceed, the county council would need to make a bid to central government for this funding.

A significant amount of research and analysis work on the routes is still to be completed before a consultation takes place late next year.

“We have got so much work to before the point of consultation and we have not yet seen all the relevant data,” Coun Burnett said.

“However, I think we should actually be the congestion reduction steering group rather than the relief road steering group.

“This seems to be assuming the answer before the question is looked into but I’m confident everything is being considered.”