West Harrogate development sites
West Harrogate development sites

North Yorkshire Council is prioritising motor vehicles at the West Harrogate Urban Expansion.

Around 2,000 houses are to be built at sites along Otley Road (between Harlow Carr and Beckwithshaw), and between Whinney Lane and Beckwith Head Road.

National Requirement to Give Priority to Pedestrian and Cycle Movements

The National Planning Policy Framework says that applications for development should give priority first to pedestrian and cycle movements and second to high-quality public transport.

Unfortunately, this is not happening at the West Harrogate developments.

Secret Documents

As stakeholders, we have attended a number of meetings at which the council and developers set out their plans. Various documents have been shown to us at these meetings.

We asked the council if we could put the documents on our website, but they want to keep them secret from the wider Harrogate public.

Focus on Accommodating Extra Traffic

From the meetings and documents, it is clear that:

  • active and sustainable travel are not the primary focus of the council’s transport proposals
  • instead, the council is intent on accommodating extra traffic at the expense of active travel
  • the key cycle link from the developments to the town centre is Otley Road, but it is a broken link because North Yorkshire refuses to build the Otley Road Cycleway

Who is to Blame for the Unsustainable Transport Proposals?

For a long time, we didn’t know who was fundamentally to blame for the unsustainable transport proposals. Was it possible that the developers were ignoring the brief given to them by the council?

We have now obtained North Yorkshire’s transport brief to the developers via a Freedom of Information request. As a result of the FOI request, this is public information, and we are entitled to publish it.

The transport brief makes it clear that the council is to blame for the unsustainable transport proposals. The developers have done what the council asked them to do.

Predict and Provide

The council has told the developers to take an outdated ‘predict and provide’ approach to their Transport Assessments.

The brief tells the developers that the Harrogate District Transport Model (HDTM) ‘…identified the junctions in Harrogate that would require mitigation, in order to adequately accommodate the forecast future traffic flows associated with the sites…’

In other words, the objective is to predict future motor vehicle traffic flows and provide for them.

Developers’ Transport Assessments should contain:

‘a summary of potential mitigation measures required to improve [i.e. increase] the capacity of the identified junctions and links where applicable’.

council instructions to developers

The list of junctions identified by the council as needing increased capacity for motor vehicles is as long as your arm.

N Yorkshire's list of junctions for capacity increase
N Yorkshire’s list of junctions for capacity increase

Of course if the council gives extra space to motor vehicles at the all these junctions, there will be no space for cycle infrastructure.

Traffic light timings are already skewed in favour of drivers, but the situation could get even worse.

Decide and Provide

‘Predict and provide’ is not inevitable.

Good councils which are committed to their transport decarbonsation goals, like Oxfordshire, are moving to ‘decide and provide‘.

Oxfordshire is not simply looking at historic traffic patterns to determine the need for future infrastructure, because that maintains the status quo by perpetuating dependence on the private car.

Instead, it is deciding on a preferred vision of the future and working towards that.

Developers in Oxfordshire are expected to solve capacity issues at junctions through modal shift to active and sustainable travel. Transport modelling has to take account of the council’s goals to reduce private car use and transport emissions.

Capacity increases for motor vehicles are a last resort.

Traffic Modelling

In Harrogate, North Yorkshire is telling developers to take current traffic volumes, and add on:

  • baseline growth and
  • car trips generated by the new housing developments

This is the very definition of predict and provide.

Modal splits (i.e. how people travel) are to be based on the 2011 census, so there is no ambition for modal shift to active and sustainable travel.

North Yorkshire’s Routemap to Carbon Negative is being completely ignored.

Transport ambitions, Routemap to Carbon Negative
Transport ambitions, Routemap to Carbon Negative

Otley Road Cycleway

The only time modal shift is mentioned is in relation to the Otley Road Cycleway. The transport briefing tells developers to take account of:

‘the potential for significant modal shift along the Otley Road corridor, as a result of increased uptake of public transport and cycling following the implementation of the Otley Road cycle corridor and enhanced bus improvements. A 10% reduction in the development generated private vehicle flows along junctions along Otley Road only could be applied to test the impact of this’.

council transport briefing to developers, p9

Unfortunately, North Yorkshire is not going ahead with the Otley Road Cycleway. In February 2023, Executive Member for Transport Cllr Keane Duncan cancelled the funded and ready-to-go Phase 2, despite the fact that there was majority support for proceeding with it.

Otley Road Cycleway is key to making these developments even a little bit sustainable in transport terms.

It is hard to find the words to describe a council that has so little commitment to its own cycling projects and climate goals.

Active Modes

The council’s document says that active modes should not be considered as an afterthought – but it is blindingly obvious that that is how North Yorkshire is treating them.

Summary and Suggestion

The transport proposals accompanying the West Harrogate Urban Expansion are a disaster. North Yorkshire Council is stuck in the 1970s, when traffic seemed like the future.

Traffic in Harrogate is awful, and betting the farm on more cars is plain daft.

Instead of giving all the space at a swathe of junctions across Harrogate to motor vehicles, North Yorkshire needs to give the people of Harrogate a choice.

We need high-quality walking and cycling facilities to be the first priority, as required by the NPPF. Cycle routes must join up so that they form a network.

If people choose to use their cars for short trips around town, they know there will be congestion and delays. If the council built a coherent cycle network, they would have an alternative.

For the moment, North Yorkshire Council is giving us no alternative and no hope.

North Yorkshire Prioritising Motor Vehicles at West Harrogate Urban Expansion

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