Greenhouse gas emissions in N Yorkshire in 2020
Greenhouse gas emissions in N Yorkshire in 2020

North Yorkshire County Council (NYCC) has produced a draft climate change strategy, and is consulting on it.

The consultation runs from 13th February to 7th April 2023.

The strategy will be adopted by the new North Yorkshire Council (NYC) that comes into existence on 1st April 2023.

This analysis focuses on the transport elements of NYCC’s Strategy.


The Climate Change Strategy is supposed to be NYCC’s contribution towards implementing the Routemap to Carbon Negative for the York & North Yorkshire Region.

There are two main problems.

1) A Vague and Unambitious Strategy Stripped of Measurable Goals

The Routemap to Carbon Negative is science-based, and sets ambitious, measurable goals on transport.

The NYCC Strategy is stripped of these measurable goals. The result is a vague and unambitious Strategy. In the absence of measurable goals, it will be much harder to hold NYCC to account for their performance on transport in relation to climate change – which is no doubt the intention.

The vital goal that is omitted from the Strategy altogether is the need for a very significant reduction in vehicle miles travelled.

2) Lack of Commitment to Modal Shift

The second problem relates to the way transport resources are allocated, and projects prioritised, in practice in North Yorkshire. We have observed a lack of commitment to meaningful changes, on the part of both the Executive and officers.

Put simply, there is no evidence that NYCC intends to implement the transport elements of its Climate Change Strategy, and a lot of evidence that it is committed to car-based business as usual.

Suggested Responses

We think that these are the key transport points to mention in your response to the consultation:

  • we know that a 48% reduction in car use is needed by 2030, so it should be included in NYCC’s Strategy
  • the Routemap’s measurable goals for active travel (+40% walking and +900% cycling) should be stated in the Strategy
  • carbon budgets should be set (tonnes of CO2e) for the different sectors to achieve by specific dates


In a Foreword to the Strategy, Cllr Greg White, Executive Member for Climate Change, notes that NYCC declared a climate emergency in July 2022, and that will roll over to the new NYC.

Cllr White says that the York & N Yorkshire Region has an ambition to be net zero by 2034 and carbon negative by 2040.

The Foreword stresses how little the council can do, and how much responsibility falls on individuals and businesses in the county. This reluctance to take responsibility is a recurring theme in the Strategy.

Kex Gill

NYCC is planning to spend £69 million on a diversion of the A59 to avoid Kex Gill.

That will involve a huge carbon splurge, from greenhouse gases embedded in the construction materials, and destruction of moorland habitat required in order to build the road.

It is also likely that officer time and resources spent on a huge road-building project will mean that there are none left for active travel schemes. Otley Road Cycleway Phase 2 has just been cancelled.

Nevertheless, NYCC has managed to crowbar a reference to Kex Gill into its Climate Change Strategy, as a propaganda effort to convince people that it is a climate-responsible action to take.

Reference to Kex Gill in NYCC Climate Change Strategy
Reference to Kex Gill in NYCC Climate Change Strategy

2020 Greenhouse Gas Emissions by Sector

The graphic at the top of this post shows the breakdown of N Yorkshire greenhouse gas emissions by sector, for 2020.

Transport accounts for 28%.

Ambitions and Targets

NYCC's interpretation of Ambitions and Targets in the Routemap to Carbon Negative
NYCC’s interpretation of Ambitions and Targets in the Routemap to Carbon Negative

NYCC’s Strategy contains a graphic purporting to summarise the Routemap to Carbon Negative’s Ambitions and Targets.

On transport, NYCC has stripped out the most important ambitions and targets, which are:

  • reducing car use by 48% by 2030
  • increasing walking distance by 40% by 2030 and
  • increasing cycling distance by 900% by 2030
Transport goals in the Routemap to Carbon Negative
Transport goals in the Routemap to Carbon Negative

NYCC have left in the goal that active travel should represent 17% of distance travelled by 2038.

On its own it is a meaningless statistic, because it does not give the necessary context such as what distance active travel represents today, and by how much it should be increased.

Climate Change Action Plan

The Strategy states that it will be delivered by a Climate Change Action Plan, ‘written and refreshed every year based on evidence of performance and new policy or advances in technology.’

Action Plan

The first Action Plan will be agreed by September 2023. It will bring together the action plans from the 8 abolished local authorities (Harrogate BC, Scarborough BC etc) and the Implementation Plans being developed for the Routemap.

Apparently the NYC Transport and Economy Scrutiny Committee will review the Strategy and Action Plan twice a year. Operational groups will be established to drive delivery of particular sectors such as transport.

NYCC commits to sharing performance data.


The Objectives are divided into four categories.

NYC Climate Change Objectives in four categories
NYC Climate Change Objectives in four categories

Mitigation is of most interest – what is NYCC going to do to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in North Yorkshire?

On transport, the main mitigation points are as follows.

1) New Local Transport Plan

There will be a new Local Transport Plan in 2024, which will set out how to make quantifiable carbon reductions.

While that may be welcome, it amounts to more putting things off until tomorrow.

2) Failure to Mention Reducing Car Use

The transport priorities NYC says it can help deliver
The transport priorities NYC says it can help deliver

The Routemap to Carbon Negative was based on expert science, and it contains the steps required to achieve the region’s climate goals.

One of those steps is reducing vehicle miles travelled by 48% by 2030.

As noted in Ambitions and Targets above, NYCC has removed any mention of a reduction in car miles from its Strategy. Is that because it has evidence that it is unnecessary? No.

It is a refusal to take a step needed to achieve NYCC’s stated goal, either because it lacks the courage to tell local people what’s needed, or because it insists on continuing to increase road capacity and distance driven for ideological reasons.

It calls into question the sincerity of the whole Climate Change Strategy.

3) Failure to Set Specific Goals

Again, as mentioned in Ambitions and Targets above, the Routemap sets out the scale of the challenge, not only in reducing car use, but also in increasing active travel. By 2030:

  • walking distance must be increased by 40% and
  • cycling distance must be increased by 900%

That’s a good start, and it can be measured.

Turning to NYCC’s Strategy to “increase active travel”:

  • what are the levels of walking and cycling now? The Strategy doesn’t say
  • what increases are needed? The Strategy doesn’t say
  • what are the targets? The Strategy doesn’t say

4) Planning and 15 Minute Neighbourhoods

The Strategy states that low carbon travel choices will be supported by the Development Plan (in place by 2028!) and Neighbourhood Plan. 15 minute neighbourhoods will be developed.

For anyone who has experienced the planning process locally, that is hard to believe. Councillors and officers talk about sustainability, but that is not reflected in plans, nor in developments that are actually built.

Time and again we hear fine words about sustainability from NYCC, but the action to back them up is entirely absent.

Words but no Action

‘Words but no action’ just about sums up NYCC on climate change.

For example, NYCC came up with the idea of an Otley Road Cycleway and obtained funding for it in 2017. Over 5 years and two consultations, it was repeatedly delayed. They managed to build one 300m section to poor standards by the end of 2021.

Late in 2022, NYCC announced a third consultation, and despite majority support for Phase 2 of the cycleway, they decided to abandon it.

That demonstrated a jaw-dropping lack of commitment to their own active travel project.

It is not an isolated instance – it happens time and again, and we have seen zero on-the-ground active travel improvements in Harrogate over a period of years.

Meanwhile, the eye-wateringly expensive, carbon-intensive Kex Gill road project gets the go-ahead, and huge resources devoted to it.

Whatever NYCC’s Climate Change Strategy says, their track record suggests that they will simply ignore it and continue with car-centric business as usual.

Responding to the Consultation

The consultation is open until 7th April 2023.

It is quite short and simplistic, but the comment boxes are the places to make your views known.

You have to provide an email address.

Consultation on N Yorkshire’s Climate Change Strategy

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