Authority accused of ‘ignoring’ members

Leader of HBC, Coun Richard Cooper.
Leader of HBC, Coun Richard Cooper.
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A row over building a congestion-easing bypass near a spectacular gorge has intensified as a Tory council leader accused another Conservative-run council of ignoring local members.

Coun Richard Cooper, leader of Harrogate Borough Council, said North Yorkshire County Council had disregarded its own area committee by continuing to investigate the merits of an inner relief road in the Nidd Gorge area.

The area committee had voted in December to rule out including it in a public consultation over congestion, but the county council said it was instead to broaden its scope, looking at a number of options. A packed public gallery was told that to win Government funding the county council would have to prove it had examined every option. But Coun Cooper, echoed by several others, said: “For the first time in 19 years as an elected councillor I feel like I have been ignored and that’s not a healthy place to be.”

Coun Don Mackenzie, executive member for highways who represents Harrogate, did not attend. Corporate director for business and environmental services David Bowe said he had been shocked by the criticism.

“I am incredibly sorry if the area committee feels like it has been ignored, because that was certainly not the intention and certainly not what happened,” he said. “We took on board entirely the comments coming back.”

Mr Bowe said the county council’s goal was not to deliver a relief road, but rather to react to complaints from the community.

Earlier in the meeting, Chris Kitson, chairman of the Nidd Gorge Community Action Group had presented a petition featuring about 3,000 signatures. Further study to reduce congestion will continue until November.

In York, meanwhile, final designs to upgrade a roundabout on Wetherby Road at a cost of £3.8m to ease congestion were yesterday approved. It is the first of seven on the A1237 set for improvements over the next four years.