Transport blueprint backed as chorus of criticism grows

A SENIOR councillor behind a new five-year transport blueprint for North Yorkshire has defended the plan after it was backed at a full county council meeting, claiming it is the best it could have been in the bleak financial climate.

North Yorkshire County Council's executive member for highways and planning services, Gareth Dadd, said the local

transport plan received almost unanimous backing from councillors on Wednesday despite fierce opposition across the county.

Critics claim it is imposing unnecessary cuts on vital schemes and will further marginalise rural communities across the county, while it has also come under fire from environmental campaigners who claim it has failed to address an urgent need to cut back on traffic volumes.

But speaking after the decision, Coun Dadd claimed the plan – which has been dramatically scaled back because of feared budget cuts of up to 50 per cent – will still make a difference.

He said: "I am confident this is the best plan for the whole of North Yorkshire bearing in mind the depleted resources that have been imposed upon us.

"We are living in the real world and it has been an extremely hard job compiling this plan in a severe financial crisis. But this is still an aspirational document."

Coun Dadd added: "The plan will focus on maintaining our road network, potholes will be a priority as well as road safety and we have designed it to be able to accommodate decreased or increased funding."

One of the main criticisms of the plan is a proposed cut to the airport bus linking Harrogate to Leeds-Bradford Airport, which it is feared will impact heavily on the spa town's conference economy, worth hundreds of millions of pounds each year.

Coun John Savage, who abstained at Wednesday's vote, said: "While we are undoubtedly in difficult times there are still real concerns from a lot of people about this plan that have not been addressed.

"We have known for a long time that poor transport links are having a detrimental effect on North Yorkshire's economy and there is little in this plan that will change that.

"I'm also concerned that it is the people in the rural areas who will suffer."