In the press this week Councillor Don Mackenzie has attacked our petition as being “badly worded”. Here is our response, delivered to the Harrogate Area County Councillors when the petition was discussed today (unfortunately Coun Mackenzie was not in attendance). Please keep signing and sharing. The petition will be running throughout 2018 until the road is dropped.
Statement to HAC (15/3/18) in support of petition to
Save Nidd Gorge and the Nidderdale Greenway
Thank you for inviting me to make a statement in support of the petition to Save Nidd Gorge & the Nidderdale Greenway.
This petition was hastily organised after the last HAC on 7th December 2017 when it quickly became apparent that the result was too good to be true and that the democratic will of this committee was not binding.
You recognised that any Inner Relief Road would be environmentally and socially damaging, wouldn’t work as a solution for congestion relief and probably wouldn’t receive government funding – and you voted by 14 votes to 2 to have it removed.
When we were informed that your collective decision could be overruled by an unaccountable, 3 man BES Executive, that, as usual, included the Executive Member for Highways – who appears to be both judge and jury at every stage in this process – this petition To Save Nidd Gorge & the Nidderdale Greenway was started; asking Carl Les and David Bowe of NYCC to… and I quote…
‘Listen to the Harrogate Area County Councillors and remove the inner relief road package (E) from the public consultation process.’
At the BES meeting, this 3-man executive were good enough to acknowledge the concerns of this committee, but still thought it necessary to keep the road on the table in order to:
- comply with DfT guidelines for funding, a questionable judgment in itself according to The Campaign for Better Transport…and
- they were now, also, suddenly concerned that they would be consulting the public with too little detail about the route of a road and the actual implications of sustainable measures, demand management and behavioural change.
This again calls into question the judgement of the people organising this process, because, until the setback of the Harrogate Area Committee vote, they were ready to consult the public with vague information and must have had the leaflets ready to deliver to the 48000 households a few days later. What would the public have been asked, armed with this vague information and how influential and environmentally damaging could the result have been? I shudder to think. So thank you to all of you councillors here today who recognised the risk and voted against the road and what I think was North Yorkshire’s plan to fast-track it through to completion.
But, despite your considered and well-articulated intervention and the 2300 signatures on the petition (at the time of the BES), the threat hasn’t been lifted and we are back here today because the democratic will of this locally elected, accountable and representative committee has not prevailed.
At this point I feel that I have to defend the wording of the petition that is titled Save Nidd Gorge & the Nidderdale Greenway because Councillor Mackenzie has publicly responded saying it is ”badly-worded” that its “claims are wrong” and that he is “not setting out to destroy the Nidd Gorge…because in his words… Nidd Gorge is a relatively narrow, steep-sided river valley. There is certainly no question that we are going to be putting a road into the Nidd Gorge.”
This is not news to any of us that have been campaigning ‘To Save Nidd Gorge and the Nidderdale Greenway’ we have always known that the road wouldn’t run into the gorge itself. It is the damage and destruction the road would do to the wider conservation and recreational area that has been the dynamic behind our call to action.
At the BES meeting Andrew Bainbridge said that no decision on an alignment had yet been made and that at the time of the meeting the road could go
“almost anywhere in that development gap between Harrogate and Knaresborough.”
But in reality, as we have said throughout the campaign, at the Bilton end, to be an inner relief road, rather than an outer one, it has to be squeezed in between the housing of Bilton and the river. A space of no more than 350m at its narrowest and currently occupied by Bilton Fields – a beautiful wild approach to the spectacular Nidd Gorge itself and also a green and tranquil setting for the hugely popular Nidderdale Greenway.
We would like to know if this is the space where, Coun Mackenzie believes – as stated in his recent ‘The Way Ahead’ article in the Harrogate Advertiser – that …
“there is plenty of room for the Gorge, Greenway and road to co-exist” – with the road being 200m away from the treeline of Nidd Gorge at its closest?
If this is the case, then this petition is not ‘badly worded’, as he claims, because Bilton Fields are part and parcel of Nidd Gorge for its thousands of visitors. When you enter the area at the Bilton Lane entrance, the big information board welcomes you to “Nidd Gorge”, well before the Greenway leads you along to Bilton Fields.
A major east-west highway running adjacent to the Greenway along this stretch, cutting across it 200m before the viaduct and then cutting across Bilton Fields towards the A61 would completely destroy the beauty and tranquility, ruin the recreational experience for visitors to Nidd Gorge and destroy the valuable wildlife habitat provided by the Greenway corridor and Bilton Fields.
Councillor MacKenzie, if he were here, would no doubt accuse us of exaggeration here, but just this week, on Tuesday evening, I witnessed the barn owl hunting over the hedgerows of Bilton Fields and the Greenway, very close to where the A59 bypass will have to cross the Greenway.
This barn owl was not there by accident, it was there because this is a conservation area created by the vision and effort of people. To state that there is plenty of room here for co-existence with a major east-west highway shows utter contempt for the dedicated work of Bilton Conservation Group who have carefully managed these fields since 1982 to enable this bio-diversity to occur. A road through here would be an environmental crime and an insult to their dedication and industry.
So this petition To Save Nidd Gorge and The Nidderdale Greenway, with 3000 current signatures, will keep running until David Bowe agrees to remove the relief road package, E, from the public consultation process, and the threat from this destructive road is gone… once and for all!
If you haven’t signed it I urge you to do so.
In his summary, at the BES meeting, after receiving the petition, David Bowe publicly stated that:
“If we ever got to a stage where we were in a position to commission and build a relief road it would certainly never destroy or adversely impact Nidd Gorge itself in any significant way”
If he is true to his word, the dream of an inner relief road must be abandoned. It can’t be built without adversely affecting Nidd Gorge.