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Andrew Jones Member of Parliament for Harrogate & Knaresborough

Andrew Jones MP

Member of Parliament for Harrogate & Knaresborough

MP’s opposition to relief road proposal

I live near the centre of Harrogate and have done so since I moved to Harrogate in 2000.  I know, like every other resident, that our roads are often congested.

There are many reasons for this.  The school run is one.  It seems fewer and fewer pupils walk to school these days, school buses are more expensive and restricted than ever before and older students often drive to school.

Every morning thousands of people drive in to Harrogate and Knaresborough to work in our hospitality industry.  These are often low paid jobs and the people who do them can’t afford to live in our area where house prices are 14 times the average salary.  So they live where it is cheaper and commute.

And thousands commute in the other direction to Leeds to higher paid jobs which are less available locally.

Our roads are constrained by houses and the Stray so widening them is both undesirable and not possible.

We have an almost perfect storm of factors which lead to congestion.

I see it, I experience it, like many other motorists I sometimes sit in it.  And when I sit in it I know that I am part the cause of congestion.

Our part of yorkshire is a beautiful one on which to live.  We have by and large attractive town centres.  There are award-winning parks and gardens, unique independent shops, national and international brands.  We are on the doorstep of fantastic countryside, the dales and the vales which girdle the urban areas punctuated with picturesque villages.

I am sure that most people, like me, consider themselves fortunate.

But good fortune is only one element of why our area is so special.  Our councils, often the focus of blame, have safeguarded our area in general well.  There are grumbles – some of them are loud.  We know we need more housing so our children and grandchildren can stay here and work here.  But few people want housing near them.

We know that we are not immune from the national situation in respect of high street shop closures.  But everyone is pulling together to try and buck the trend.

So when a proposal comes forward that I believe is so out-of-keeping with the generally good stewardship that our councils have demonstrated over decades I feel duty-bound, as a resident and as the Member of Parliament, to speak out.

The so-called relief road through the Nidd Gorge is one such proposal.  That is why I spoke out in the Harrogate Advertiser and Knaresborough Post last week.

The Nidd Gorge and the land surrounding it is a part of what makes our area special.  It isn’t an added extra that we can do without.  It has high environmental value welcoming thousands of walkers, horse-riders and cyclists.

How can a road which means demolition of properties at Forest Moor in Knaresborough, bisecting Harrogate Golf Club, crossing somehow the Nidderdale Greenway and potentially the River Nidd outweigh the environmental value of that land?

Through traffic is seven per cent of all traffic.  Would the effect of a relief road in that location really have such a dramatic effect on traffic congestions as to be worth the environmental damage it would cause?

And with the competing priorities for road funding across the United Kingdom would such a road really attract the national funding it would require in order to be built.

The answer to all those questions is no.  That is why I think the idea should be dropped – and dropped right now.

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