Holding North Yorkshire to account 2023
Holding North Yorkshire to account 2023

2023 was another year of failure by North Yorkshire Council (NYC) on cycling.

The council failed to meet all its own deadlines, and made no meaningful progress on any of its main cycling projects.

Here is an overview of what happened.

Crossing of Bilton Lane

Figure 10.6, Cycle Infrastructure Design
Figure 10.6, Cycle Infrastructure Design

This was a relatively simple project to build a crossing of Bilton Lane for the Nidderdale Greenway. It was to be done by 31st March 2023.

As usual, NYC made no effort to meet its own timetable.

The council held a consultation and scheduled the work for September 2023. Council officers then realised that they had forgtotten to hold a statutory consultation required for speed humps, and the work was put off until “February/March 2024”.

Will NYC manage to build the crossing then?

Otley Road Cycleway and Beech Grove

Map showing Otley Road and Beech Grove
Map showing Otley Road and Beech Grove

In February 2023 NYC decided to abandon Phase 2 of Otley Road Cycleway despite majority support for going ahead with it.

Later in the year the council announced its intention to spend the money on ten other projects instead.

The largest single item is replacing traffic lights at the Otley Road/Cold Bath Road junction at a cost of £200,000, in order to increase capacity for private cars. This calls into question NYC’s description of the funding as being for ‘sustainable transport’.

Beech Grove modal filters got 66% support in the consultation, but NYC took them out anyway.

There can be no excuses for this based on popular support, funding or technical competence: it is failure of political will pure and simple. NYC is exposed as an irresponsible council still wedded to ‘cars, cars, cars’ and with no strategy for cycling and walking.

Harrogate Station Gateway

Station Parade
Station Parade

Harrogate Station Gateway started out as an ambitious active travel project, with modern cycle infrastructure in the designs. The local authority officers did a pretty good job on it.

The failure of political will came in Summer 2023 when the NYC Executive (Council Leader Carl Les) failed to stand up to an action for judicial review by Hornbeam Park Developments Ltd.

Revised proposals have had all the worthwhile elements stripped out of them.

All that’s left is a scheme to change the traffic lights on Station Parade in order to prioritise motor vehicles. The pedestrian areas would be repaved – ‘prettifying the status quo’.

The new proposals are likely to have a very low Benefit Cost Ratio – i.e. it would not be worth doing. That fact could yet save us from a ‘nothing’ scheme.

Active Travel Fund 2 Schemes

Key issues raised in the Oatlands consultation
Key issues raised in the Oatlands consultation

The Active Travel Fund 2 (ATF2) schemes were Oatlands Drive, Victoria Avenue and A59 Knaresborough Road. They were funded to the tune of £1 million in 2020.

At the start of 2023, NYC announced that there would be 3rd consultations on the schemes in “the New Year” 2023. This never happened.

NYC made a bid for supplementary funding for Victoria Avenue and Knaresborough Road in ATF4. At the end of March 2023, that bid was rejected by Active Travel England.

Nothing happened in the rest of 2023 on Victoria Avenue and Knaresborough Road.

In December 2023, NYC published the consultants’ reports on Oatlands Drive which it had been sitting on since February 2023. There is no indication of any next steps.

Crossings of Wetherby Road and Oatlands Drive

Slingsby Walk meets Wetherby Road
Slingsby Walk meets Wetherby Road

In December 2022, NYC promised to build a crossing of Wetherby Road for Slingsby Walk. In March 2023, the council added a promise to build a crossing of Oatlands Drive.

The deadline for building the crossings is 31st March 2024.

NYC has been proceeding with these projects in its usual lackadaisical fashion.

If the council was serious about sticking to its timetable, it would have started the two consultations required (on the crossings themselves, and on the Stray land implications) in 2023. It has not done so.

We’re now at the point where there is no chance of NYC building these crossings on time.

Timetables are important in project management. Failure to meet milestones leads to increased costs and project failure. NYC fails to meet its milestones and deadlines every single time, which goes a long way to explaining why nearly all its active travel projects fail.

LCWIPs

NYC was supposed to be refreshing its Harrogate & Knaresborough Local Cycling & Walking Infrastructure Plan (LCWIP) and publishing its Ripon LCWIP, both early in 2023.

Like everything else, that has not happened.

Holding NYC to Account Table

ProjectPromised Action (Start of 2023)Results Achieved
Nidderdale Greenway crossing of Bilton LaneConstruction by March 2023Fail. No construction work started in the year to the end of March 2023. Still no work started late December 2023.
Otley Road CyclewayConsultation results January 2023
Work to be done by April 2023
Fail. Project (Phase 2) abandoned Feb 2023.
Beech GroveReport to BES Executive January 2023
Scheme to be delivered in Summer 2023
Fail. Project abandoned Feb 2023. Replaced with vague promises from Cllr Duncan of an unspecified new scheme at an unspecified future date.
Harrogate Station GatewayConsultation results to be published (January 2023?)
H&K Area Committee to consider the scheme (5th May 2023)
Construction to start “late 2023”
Consultation results published 13th January 2023.
Approved by Area Committee 5th May 2023 and by Executive 30th May 2023.
Decision to proceed quashed by Executive 22nd August 2023. Revised design stripped of cycle infrastructure and focused on motor vehicles floated by NYC.
Oatlands Drive (ATF2)Report with options in “the New Year” 2023Fail. Report finally published December 2023. No ‘next steps’ announced.
Victoria Avenue (ATF2)3rd consultation to start in “the New Year” 2023Fail. December 2023: no consultation scheduled; no progress made all year. ATF4 bid for further funding failed.
A59 Knaresborough Road (ATF2)3rd consultation to start in “the New Year” 2023December 2023: no consultation scheduled; no progress made all year. ATF4 bid for further funding failed
Wetherby Road CrossingFeasibility study to be written
Construction in 2023/4 (i.e. by March 2024)
No progress all year. Consultation and Stray land consultation have not been scheduled. 31st March 2024 construction deadline now certain to be missed.
Harrogate LCWIP to be ‘refreshed’Draft was to be available by mid-Dec 2022 (missed)
To BES Executive January/February 2023
Fail. December 2023: no news of any progress.
Ripon LCWIPTo be approved in Spring 2023Fail. December 2023: no news of any progress.
NYC Promises vs Results 2023

Above is the full Holding North Yorkshire to Account table, originally published on our Home page.

None of the promises made by NYC at the start of the year have been kept. There has been delay and/or failure on every project, and no meaningful progress on any of them.

Corner of Otley Road and Harlow Moor Road

Corner of Otley Road and Harlow Moor Road
Corner of Otley Road and Harlow Moor Road

The one thing NYC got done in 2023 was to widen the shared use path at the corner of Otley Road and Harlow Moor Road.

This was a correction of their own mistake: they left the path unacceptably narrow at the time they widened the junction for motor vehicles in September 2021.

The junction itself is a great deal wider for motor vehicles, and feels more hostile to walking and cycling than before.

As things stand, the shared use path only goes a few metres up Otley Road before throwing cyclists off and requiring them to rejoin the busy carriageway.

Summary

NYC’s track record over the course of 2023 is dismal. This follows on from a very poor 2022.

A combination of lack of project management skills and lack of commitment to active travel is Kryptonite to the local active travel agenda. Nothing gets done.

At the end of 2022, I asked if there was any hope.

One potential reason to be cheerful I identified was that Harrogate Station Gateway could go ahead in 2023. That didn’t happen.

Another possible cause for optimism was NYC’s promise to set up a dedicated active travel team. They didn’t do that.

The final chink of light was the hope that Active Travel England (ATE) would intervene. If they have, it hasn’t had any noticeable effect.

Arguably the best thing ATE could do now is strip NYC of their Level 1 rating and make them Level 0. Then no further public money would be wasted on a council that is either unwilling to or incapable of delivering active travel facilities.

Being made Level 0 might just be the shock treatment that the council needs. It could perhaps wake them up to just how poor their performance on active travel is, and spark meaningful changes in their approach.

It probably wouldn’t, though.

Review of 2023: Another Year of Failure on Cycling by North Yorkshire Council

Leave a Reply