We are reviewing the need for solutions to relieve traffic congestion in Harrogate and Knaresborough.

The review will consider the need for and viability of sustainable transport measures in Harrogate and Knaresborough and the wider urban area. The measures are being considered as both a standalone package and as a complementary package alongside various relief road options.

Report covering the recent work undertaken

A report covering the work undertaken on congestion was presented to the area committee for the Harrogate borough on 7 December 2017.

Following feedback from the area committee, a decision to undertake further study was taken by the corporate director for business and environmental services in consultation with executive members on 15 December.

This further study will look in greater detail at potential solutions to the towns’ congestion problems, including sustainable transport improvements, measures to manage demand and an inner relief road option.

This work is expected to take until summer this year. When it is complete, a decision will be taken about public consultation on more detailed options.

Background information

Archive information on the background to the scheme, relief road options and work carried out so far.

Background to the scheme

In the 1990s, development work was carried out investigating the options for a relief road. Several options were tested with a Western and Northern alignment, being adopted as preferred routes together with a Killinghall bypass. The preferred route of the Western bypass was subsequently revoked though the Northern alignment is still retained.

Since then significant traffic growth has taken place, with Harrogate and Knaresborough town centres both now suffering from significant traffic congestion, causing delays and unreliable journey times. Many of the key routes throughout both towns are either close to or at capacity especially in the peak hours.

The county council recognises the traffic congestion issues in Harrogate and Knaresborough, both in terms of its impact on traffic with an origin or destination within the towns, but also on longer distance through traffic, particularly on the key A59 east west corridor. The county council's strategic transport prospectus identifies Harrogate relief road as a strategic priority. The county council also recognises that in order to address congestion levels, a relief road on its own may not be the only solution. Complementary sustainable transport measures may also be required. This will likely include improving passenger transport facilities, providing improved cycling and pedestrian links and exploring opportunities for park and ride.

Relief road options

Due to the significant traffic growth since the 1990s when the Northern alignment was adopted as a preferred relief road option, and the growth of Harrogate and Knaresborough, the county council has taken the decision as a starting point to look at all historic relief road options again. The indicative corridors that are being investigated can be found in the plan below. You can click or tap to view a larger version.


You can  view a full sized version of the above map here (jpg / 216 KB).

It should be noted that the alignments shown in the plan are only indicative at this stage, and illustrate potential corridors to be investigated further. All options being considered include a Killinghall bypass.

Work carried out so far

The county council working in partnership with Harrogate Borough Council has commissioned a traffic model for Harrogate, Knaresborough and Ripon. This is being used jointly by both authorities to test local plan development options and potential relief road corridors.

Initial testing has been carried out assessing 2035 traffic flows both with and without each potential corridor. At present they have been tested against a committed development scenario. This is effectively any developments that already have planning consent combined with an assumed background traffic growth over the next 20 years.

These initial results have shown that each of the relief road options will help to reduce traffic flows in Harrogate and Knaresborough. The impact varies between options, with the Inner Relief Road options providing the highest benefit, with, for example, a predicted reduction of flows between 20 and 40 per cent on Skipton Road.

Both the Northern and Western alignments provide reduced benefits to the town centre networks, in comparison to the inner options. However the Western provides a significant benefit to both Ripon Road and Leeds Road. The following plan provides some outline results from the first phase of testing and shows some of the variations in traffic flow between leaving the network as it currently is, against each potential relief road option. You can click or tap to view a larger version.


You can  view a full sized version of the above map here (jpg / 3 MB).

Next steps on the proposals

In order to be able to be able to seek government funding for a relief road the county council must follow an established government process for the identification and assessment of major transport schemes.

The first stage in the process is to establish if a need exists for a relief road. This will involve further detailed traffic modelling work, looking at predicted future traffic growth and how the local transport network will be able to cope with this.

If a need for a relief road is identified, then we will begin to look at potential options in more detail and carry out a more detailed assessment of the available options. Each option will be assessed against a range of traffic, economic, environmental, engineering and financial criteria. The assessment will also involve establishing how the emerging Harrogate Borough Council local plan may impact on each of the options.

Once this phase of initial assessment phase has been completed, we will begin to narrow down the list potential options, to identify which should be taken forward for more detailed review and appraisal. This will involve further outline design, feasibility and traffic modelling work as well as the consideration of planning and environmental constraints and widespread formal public consultation. The completion of this phase of work will help to identify if the existing alignment of the preferred route should be retained or if an alternative relief road corridor should be taken forward to preferred route status.

This is a complex and time consuming process. For example, the assessment of the environmental impacts must be undertaken across all seasons during the year to identify the presence of different flora and fauna. Inevitably therefore the process to determine a preferred route is not likely to be completed until late in 2017.

The county council's executive, in consultation with the steering group and county committee for the Harrogate area will make the final decision on which, if any, relief road option should be adopted as a preferred route.

Assuming a preferred route is agreed, the county council will commence work on developing an outline business case for the relief road. Completion of the outline business case will mean that we are in a position to bid for funding from central government for the relief road.
Officers are currently developing a more detailed programme to identify key tasks and timeframes for this work.

About the Harrogate relief road steering group

A member led relief road steering group has been established. The purpose of the steering group is to provide guidance to officers of the county council throughout the development process. Members of the steering group are county councillors Don Mackenzie and Michael Harrison and Borough Councillor Phil Ireland.

Further information

Frequently asked questions - general

There is a strong public demand in Harrogate and Knaresborough for something to be done to address the traffic congestion in the towns with many people suggesting a relief road as a potential solution. Many of the main routes and junctions in the towns are close to capacity, with delays being frequent. This traffic congestion has an impact on the area's long-term economic growth as well as causing air quality problems, including at the air quality management areas that have or are being declared.

Over the last ten to15 years, the county council has made a significant number of smaller scale improvements to help reduce congestion. We believe that these measures will only take us so far in terms of reducing town centre traffic congestion and so feel we need to  investigate properly a larger scale package of a relief road and sustainable transport measures to help future-proof both Harrogate and Knaresborough against increases in traffic.

The work currently being undertaken will establish whether a relief road will help to solve the traffic congestion and associated problems and if so will identify the best potential route for such a relief road. The investigations into a relief road will also include a package of complementary sustainable transport improvements to that would be built at the same time as any relief road.

At this stage in the development process the routes on the website are illustrative corridors only and not detailed routes. The published corridors should not be interpreted as the actual routes of the relief road proposals. If the need for a relief road is proven, we will begin to firm up more detailed alignments through the development process.

We currently have a preferred route to the north of Harrogate and Knaresborough (Northern Alignment). This was adopted in the early 1990s. As part of the development process we are reviewing this route and other potential alignments to assess what is the best solution for Harrogate and Knaresborough.

Initial estimates are that the scheme is likely to cost in the region of £70m to £100m. Cost estimates will be refined in more detail as the development process continues. 

The scheme cost is unaffordable from council funds alone and it is not possible to guarantee developer funding. Therefore, central government funding will need to be sought for the scheme.

Bidding for funding for major schemes like Harrogate relief road is a competitive process. We will need to present a strong case to government to give the proposal the best possible chance against other proposals submitted from across the country.

The preparatory work involved in developing a major transport scheme proposal such as Harrogate relief road is extensive. It is the intention of the county council to be a position to complete the first stage of the Harrogate relief road review by late 2017 / early 2018. This would identify a preferred alignment. This process involves more detailed economic, environmental, engineering and financial assessments of the options to be carried out and for further traffic modelling work to be undertaken. There will also be wide scale public consultation prior to the adoption of any preferred option.

Adoption of a preferred route (if any) and potential revocation of the existing preferred route will be a decision made by the county council executive with a recommendation from the county council committee for the Harrogate area.

Further development work will take place on the preferred route to enable us to produce an outline business case for submission to Government. We estimate that this will be completed by the end of 2018. While this work is being undertaken we will also be seeking funding for the scheme from Government.

Given the various development stages that need to take place and the fact that we will need to bid for funding from the Department for Transport to be able to afford to deliver the scheme, the earliest that we would potentially complete the scheme is 2024.

Yes. In order to address congestion levels, a relief road on its own is unlikely to be the sole solution. Alongside a relief road, a package of complementary sustainable transport measures will also be required. Possible complementary measures may include expansion to the town's cycle network, improvements to east-west cycle links between Knaresborough and Harrogate and improving public transport facilities. We will be looking at existing proposals, but will also be looking at new ideas and options as well.

Yes. We will investigate how a park and ride facility could potentially link in with the relief road options.

The potential developments to be included within the proposed local plan are not dependent upon a relief road being constructed. Due to the need for central government funding for a relief road there is no guarantee that the funding will be made available and as such it is not possible to guarantee that the relief road will be constructed within the forthcoming local plan period (up to 2035). The local plan and relief road study are therefore two separate pieces of work though the relief road assessment will consider the growth scenarios contained within the draft local plan.

Two of the potential route corridors include a link to Bilton Lane. This is likely to increase traffic on Bilton Lane. As part of the options appraisal and preferred route development process a detailed assessment of how these options will impact on Bilton Lane will be completed.

Yes. As part of the options appraisal and preferred route development process we will be assessing the environmental impacts of each of the potential options.

At present, other than the Northern Relief Road (the existing preferred route), there are no definite alignments in place. As such at this point in time we cannot confirm exactly which properties will be impacted by the route options. As further development work takes place and if a new preferred route is adopted, more information will be made to available to impacted properties and landowners.

Yes. We will be publishing a range of information through local media channels and we will also be regularly updating this web page.

Yes, there will be formal consultation process as part of the development of the preferred route. This is likely to take place in late 2017.

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