Agenda item

Public Questions and Statements

Members of the public may ask questions or make statements at this meeting if they have given notice to Melanie Carr of Democratic and Scrutiny Services and supplied the text (contact details below) by midday on Thursday 3 November 2022, three working days before the day of the meeting.  Each speaker should limit themselves to 3 minutes on any item.  Members of the public who have given notice will be invited to speak:-

·            at this point in the meeting if their questions/statements relate to matters which are not otherwise on the Agenda (subject to an overall time limit of 30 minutes);

·            when the relevant Agenda item is being considered if they wish to speak on a matter which is on the Agenda for this meeting.

If you are exercising your right to speak at this meeting, but do not wish to be recorded, please inform the Chairman who will instruct anyone who may be taking a recording to cease while you speak.



There were two public statements presented at the meeting.  The first from Mr Andrew Wilson as follows:


‘Why did NYCC, according to multiple contacts with the officers, contractors and sub-contractors responsible and the FoI data provided, carry out the recent work to speed the drainage of York Road, Thirsk across the flatts into Cod Beck:


- despite the fact that there are no recent records of York Road being closed due to flooding;

- without any consultation with the public, but with repeated conversations with private land managers;

- without any environmental data on the habitats that would be destroyed,

- without awareness of the Protected Species in and around the Beck,

- without consideration of the negative impact of draining rare wet grassland and increasing the rate of flow into the beck;

- without awareness on the part of those carrying out the work of the RoW on the flatts that would be affected;

- in a manner which facilitates damaging development against the public interest;

- with additional uncosted work at the public expense to the satisfaction of the land agent;

- with inappropriate aftercare work;

- at nearly double the original estimated cost;

- and will it undertake to take better care of Cod Beck and its surrounds in the future?’


In response, County Councillor Keane Duncan made the following statement:


Thank you for your question. In compiling a response to the issues you have raised I have consulted with Stuart Grimston, improvement manager at the Area 2 Highways team, based in Thirsk.


The York Road drainage scheme is part of the 2022/23 capital programme, which involves replacing/renewing the existing highway drainage between the A19/A168 interchange and White Mare roundabout, along the A170 in Thirsk, much of which was found to be beyond repair.


The requirement for a drainage scheme was first identified in financial year 2016/17, due to ongoing issues with blocked gullies and standing water on York Road causing disruption and road safety issues. Investigations since then, including CCTV surveys, have proved that much of the existing system had failed or was in a very poor state of repair. While standing water eventually dissipates, highways officers expressed concern that some of this water was likely to be undermining the foundation of the carriageway pavement, bringing with it the associated risks of voids/sinkholes and contributing to the poor surface condition. York Road is in need of resurfacing, however, the council is unable to implement such a scheme without first renewing the drainage assets.


Under Section 41 of the Highways Act of 1980, North Yorkshire County Council, as the local highway authority, has a statutory duty to maintain the highway. We do not consult the public on maintenance schemes, although we do notify the travelling public of the work, as well as residents and businesses within the site extents.


However, in this instance we did consult the owners of the land that we intended to re-lay the drain across. One of the land owners asked if we could amend the drainage alignment slightly in order to accommodate their future development proposals, so that the drain ran down the edge of the field (as opposed to through the centre). Given that the scheme was still in design, and construction works had not started, it made sense to accommodate this request in order to futureproof our asset.


Section 100 of the Highways Act gives a Highway Authority powers to construct/lay drains across private land. In exercising this power, it is essential to work with landowners where possible as they are entitled to claim compensation for any “damage” suffered and can also charge a licence fee for the use of their land as a compound. In this instance, we agreed to amend the drainage alignment, and in exchange the only stipulation on NYCC was that we leave the land as we found it. Given experiences elsewhere in the county, where developers have severed similar drainage located on third party land, leading to flooding, road closures and over pumping, and then implementing remedial solutions both within and outside of the highway boundary with all of the additional costs involved, officers stand by the decision here as being the correct one.


With regard to the Public Rights of Way, the alignment of the drainage installation did not follow the route of any of the public footpaths in their entirety, but did cross these footpaths at various points. However, no closures were applied for as the contractor felt that they could easily manage pedestrians through the site, with there being plenty of space to locally divert pedestrians around the works.


In response to the ecological and environmental concerns that have been raised, NYCC’s principal ecologist Julia Casterton is satisfied that no ecological or environmental breaches have occurred. There are no special designations (Sites of Special Scientific Interest, for example) that would trigger the need for an ecological assessment here, and the council has not damaged or removed any trees or hedges during the works.


In terms of aftercare, works to re-instate the field housing the site compound have not been undertaken as yet, as the scheme is not complete. However, appropriate measures will be taken in due course, as this is the only condition that has been placed on us by the land owner for the use of their field.


Highway officers within Area 2 welcome further contact from you if required and would be happy to address any further queries you may have about the scheme.


The second public statement was submitted by Pannal and Burn Bridge Parish Council and presented by County Councillor John Mann, as follows:


‘The relative lack of progress by NYCC Highways in any tangible way to address the traffic problems associated with the Western Arc of Harrogate’s explosion in housing was confirmed unanimously by councillors at the Harrogate and Knaresborough Constituency meeting on 12th October and referred to your good selves. We suggested any NYCC Highways work relating to Maltkiln (a decade away probably) be suspended until solutions have been found for the extant problems to the west of Harrogate. There was never a suggestion on our part for the abandonment of the Maltkiln work, merely to shelve it temporarily: the absolute congestion in the West of Harrogate is as a consequence of no meaningful consultation having been conducted over the years for this area.


The initial statement from our Parish Council at the Area Constituency Meeting was not addressed adequately and Cllr Howard West’s supplementary question did not receive a direct response that answered his points. Platitudes about increased bus services and active travel will do nothing whatsoever to mitigate the congestion and danger on narrow roads leading to/from the Western Arc to the A61 to Leeds or the A658 to Bradford or York.


We understand the constraints in funding but see other projects elsewhere getting the go-ahead while the lack of foresight of HBC in not having an effective Local Plan (with associated and relevant road infrastructure) for the best part of a decade remaining unsolved and, by all accounts, apparently ignored. This was highlighted by the Harrogate Local Plan government inspector who insisted on the West Harrogate Parameters Plan – STILL without any provision for tackling previous congestion and huge projected increases in traffic.


We have volunteered our local knowledge to assist NYCC and HBC almost since the inception of our Parish Council in 2016 but the net result is to have been rebuffed by both councils, and yet we have nothing concrete other than a few suggested junction improvements. New or vastly improved roads are required, not merely a few modified junctions. Previous “consultation” meetings have been little more than HBC/NYCC outlining the few junction modifications planned, plus a great deal of promotion for cycle and pedestrian paths, plus increased bus services that wouldn’t come into operation until all the developments are finished. Active travel and buses in and out of Harrogate from Western Arc developments will do nothing to alleviate the daily commute, rat-running and school runs through our parish.


Pannal and Burn Bridge Parish Council - in conjunction with North Rigton and Beckwithshaw Parish Councils and residents’ association HAPARA - appeal to NYCC Members to speed up the work of the Highways Department and insist they provide real solutions now.


Would Cllr Duncan also please scotch any rumours of reconsidering a Park and Ride anywhere near Pannal golf club or the Mercedes showroom. That was demonstratively rejected by his predecessor Cllr Mackenzie. To increase congestion in Pannal as a result of such an inappropriate notion instead of mitigating it, is the wrong approach. There is only one solution for the A61 P&R and that is near Buttersyke roundabout with its junction with the A658.


Could Cllr Duncan also please provide us with the detailed written remit to the consultants, RPS, so that our residents know exactly what was demanded of this company by NYCC/HBC.

Excerpt from the draft minutes of the constituency meeting:


Supplementary Question from Pannal and Burn Bridge Parish Council:

Parish Councillor Howard West commented that there were actually 4,000 new houses,

rather than 2,500 as mentioned in the response. Parish Councillor Howard West asked where - in all the work carried out by the County Council, Borough Council and developers - was there any clarity or commitment on deliverables that would truly off-set the effects of the excessive developments proposed for the western arc of Harrogate. So far, everything the Parish Council was seeing constituted tinkering around the edges, is process driven, and lacks real solutions. Compare this with what has happened in Maltkiln. Two totally different worlds.


Allan McVeigh (Head of Network Strategy, Highways and Transportation) responded that a

huge amount of work was already in progress regarding junction mitigation. This is the RPS

study mentioned by Louise Neale. Officers are also pushing the process very hard in relation

to Active Travel and Sustainable Transport. Proposals were coming forward which included bus service improvements too. An awful lot of work is on-going but, at the moment, it is still ‘work in progress’. - This response does not answer our question.


In response, County Councillor Keane Duncan made the following statement:


“Thank you for your question. The county council is working to address congestion in and around Harrogate, now and in advance of the planned development in the west of Harrogate, which will see an extra 2,500 homes constructed between now and 2035. This major, strategic development is key to providing much-needed housing and promoting Harrogate’s future economic growth, as is the proposed Maltkiln development. It is vital, therefore, that the council continues essential work on both of these schemes in parallel.


While the west of Harrogate development is spread over several sites and a number of separate planning applications, a unified approach is being taken to delivery of essential infrastructure and mitigation of traffic impacts. We are working with the land promotors and their consultants, who have been instructed to look at traffic impacts cumulatively and this will be documented in a Transport Strategy. As part of the planning application process, promotors must also produce Travel Plans as part of the pre-application process to show commitment to promoting sustainable travel into the future. We continue to work with and support Harrogate Borough Council through this process.


The Transport Strategy work has already identified a number of junctions where capacity would be exceeded once development traffic has been factored in. These junctions will require mitigation, and this will be funded by the developers and delivered by the county council. This work is significant and will cost developers between £15-25 million.


As this work continues, community consultation will be critically important and stakeholder events will be convened to allow local people to receive information and give their views. I have asked officers to ensure dates of these sessions are shared with the parish council when they are available. The Transport Strategy will also be submitted alongside the individual planning applications giving all stakeholders a formal opportunity to comment on it as part of the planning process.


Consultants RPS have been commissioned to carry out a “buildability check” of all mitigation proposals to assess basic design parameters, determine the achievability of constructing the proposal and to provide construction costings for each of the proposed mitigation measures. I have asked council officers to share a copy of the brief for this work with the parish council.


With regard to a potential park and ride facility in Harrogate, a number of sites across the town are being considered, and their ability to reduce congestion forms part of these considerations. No decisions have been taken and the work is still very much in the feasibility stage and will be included in a report detailing the findings. Given this, it would be wrong to rule out or rule in any particular sites at this stage.


The county council would value input from the parish council over coming months and years. We would be happy to provide further updates as work progresses, take on board suggestions and respond to any further questions you may have.”