North Yorkshire is dropping the Oatlands Drive scheme that was part of their successful bid for Active Travel Fund (ATF) money.
An article on North Yorkshire’s website states that only the A59 and Victoria Avenue schemes in Harrogate are recommended for further appraisal and design. There’s also a scheme in Whitby.
Mistakes by North Yorkshire
This is the result of a series of mistakes by North Yorkshire. First, though, credit to officers for a good original design.
Credit to Officers for a Good Original Design
Credit to officers for drawing up an excellent scheme for Oatlands Drive at the outset. It involved making the road one-way, creating space for wider pavements, and cycle lanes with physical protection. Given that there are two large schools here (St Aidan’s and St John Fisher), physical protection is essential.
Failure to Consult the Schools at an Early Stage
Unfortunately, the scheme was sprung on the schools at a late stage. They should have been consulted early on so they could help shape the plans, but they weren’t.
As we understand it, St Aidan’s wanted to keep two-way traffic on Oatlands Drive, notably for the convenience of school buses, but still have better and safer cycle infrastructure. That is simply not possible in the space available.
North Yorkshire decided to split the consultation into two phases. Phase 1 was only about the locations of the ATF schemes – not the detailed plans.
North Yorkshire withdrew the worthwhile Oatlands Drive scheme after the Phase 1 consultation, on the basis that the detailed design was unpopular, even though the consultation was not about the detailed design. That is illogical and inconsistent. It was their idea to do a two-stage consultation, so they should have followed through and done it.
This decision was taken by the Executive Member for Access and the Director of Business and Environmental Services.
In Phase 2, North Yorkshire consulted on a very weak scheme. It included a crossing of Oatlands Drive (of unspecified type) for Slingsby Walk, and another crossing outside St Aidan’s. These crossings were welcome. The measures for Oatlands Drive itself were:
- 20mph instead of 30mph
- two speed tables
- some parking restrictions by the Stray
- one-way filters at the junctions with St Hilda’s and St Winifred’s roads
- leaving in place the dangerous, painted, advisory cycle lanes (95-105cm)
The fundamental problems with the new scheme were:
- it didn’t comply with the Statutory Guidance
- it didn’t comply with Cycle Infrastructure Design guidance (LTN1/20)
- it therefore did not qualify for ATF funding, and it was pointless consulting on it
- it wouldn’t make cycling on Oatlands Drive safe, and would not achieve modal shift or encourage pupils to cycle to school
In our reponse to Phase 2 of the consulation, we pointed out that the scheme did not qualify for funding.
Opposition to the Scheme
There was opposition to the scheme from some local residents, who feared slightly less convenient car journeys to nearby local destinations. Much of the opposition was based on misinformation.
Since ATF schemes have to have local support, Oatlands Drive plans may have had to be modified, or even dropped, after consultation. It would have been clear what people felt if North Yorkshire had gone through with the consultation on the good scheme that qualified for funding. Unfortunately, they did not.
In our response to the Phase 2 consultation mentioned above, we put forward ideas for Oatlands Drive, in an effort to salvage something from the wreckage of the scheme. North Yorkshire said they would engage with us on this, but to date have not done so.
BES Report and Meeting
A report has been prepared for North Yorkshire’s Business and Environmental Services (BES) Executive Members who meet today, with recommendations and next steps.
Interesting points that emerge from the report include, for the Phase 1 consultation:
- 2,073 people responded to the Phase 1 consultation in Harrogate
- there was 44% strongly support/support for the Victoria Avenue and the A59 schemes, more than those opposing
- 57% strongly opposed/opposed Oatlands Drive, and North Yorkshire got 100 emails of objection
And for the Phase 2 consultation:
- there were 741 reponses to the Phase 2 consultation in Harrogate
- there was 46% support for the A59 and 42% for Victoria Avenue – more than those who opposed the schemes
- 50% opposed the Oatlands Drive scheme
- 59% opposed one-way filters on the St Hilda’s and St Winifred’s junctions – but in our view the one-way filters would have served little purpose anyway
- 64% supported 20mph on Oatlands Drive, 62% supported parking restrictions by the Stray, and 65% supported a crossing of Oatlands Drive for Slingsby Walk
20mph, Parking Restrictions, and a Crossing for Slingsby Walk
These measures were very popular in the consultation, so should be implemented immediately. The scheme as a whole doesn’t qualify for ATF funding, so North Yorkshire should pay for them out of its transport budget.
Instead, there are a lot of excuses in paragraph 4.5 of the report, and the plan is to commission a separate Oatlands Constituency Feasibility Study ‘to enable reassessment of options and completing traffic modelling for a scheme that could be applied across a wider area than the extents of the ATF scheme.’
North Yorkshire intend to ask the DfT for permission to use ATF revenue funding for this. The feasibility study would begin this Summer.
Whilst this may not sound unreasonable, it should be considered in the context of North Yorkshire’s record over a number of years – of studying and reporting endlessly, without doing anything for active travel. (There is one recent exception – an excellent scheme at Beech Grove).
A relevant example is Otley Road Cycleway, which was funded in November 2017. No construction work has been done, and at the time of writing there isn’t even a date for work to begin.
Oatlands Drive Funding Going to the Seaside
After Oatlands Drive is dropped, there is £59,400 of ATF capital free, and the report recommends that it go to Whitby for an extended scheme on Guisborough Road.
Timetable for the Schemes
The report (paragraph 5.2) sets out a ‘indicative timeframe’ for the ATF schemes:
- May – July 2021, design, costings, tender evaluation, advertising TROs
- 23rd July 2021, approval from the Executive
- August 2021, tender process/award
- November 2021 – March 2022, construction
Inviting Schoolchildren to Use Dangerously Sub-Standard Cycle Lanes
The bigger picture where Oatlands Drive is concerned is that North Yorkshire is leaving in place dangerously sub-standard cycle lanes near two schools.
It should be the most basic duty of a Highways Authority to look after vulnerable road users and keep them safe – especially schoolchildren. In this instance, North Yorkshire is failing in that duty.
Further, Oatlands Drive is a primary cycle route on North Yorkshire’s Local Cycling & Walking Infrastructure Plan. If it is abandoned, that leaves an important gap in the network.