Otley Road cycleway extension: a welcome boost for active travel or a costly folly?
Last updated Apr 20, 2024
The cycleway will be extended here.

When transport chief Cllr Keane Duncan announced last year phase two of the Otley Road cycleway had been scrapped, it appeared to signal the end of the project.

It therefore came as a surprise this week when Harlow and Pannal Ash Residents’ Association‘s spring meeting, attended by North Yorkshire Council officers, heard the scheme had been revived.

So what has changed and is the prospect of extending the shared route for cyclists and pedestrians a welcome step forward for active travel or a costly folly?

The cycleway was due to be built in three phases and form part of a safe, off-road cycling route from Harrogate Rail Station to Cardale Park, encouraging people to get out of cars in an area where 4,000 homes are being built.

Phase one, from Cold Bath Road to Harlow Moor Road, was completed late and over budget.

Phase two was supposed to extend east from Cold Bath Road to Beech Grove, eventually connecting to a yet-to-be-built cycleway on Victoria Avenue.

Phase three, extending west from Harlow Moor Drive to Cardale Park, was never officially abandoned but the political will to proceed appeared to have been sapped. So reviving it has attracted considerable debate in recent days, although the route will now only extend 1.1km up Otley Road to Harlow Carr.

The junction of Otley Road and Harlow Moor Road, showing where the cycleway would be extended.

Phase three will be funded by developers as mitigation for building homes in west Harrogate, whereas phase two was due to be funded by the council, which has struggled to secure funding for active travel schemes. This goes a long way to explaining why phase three is going ahead rather than phase two.

Also, unlike previous phases, there won’t be a specific consultation on phase three, limiting the prospect of dissent.

Hapara has distributed leaflets to residents about the plans and clearly isn’t a fan.

The leaflet says:

“The general view of this scheme is that it will not deliver any real benefits to mitigate against the high levels of traffic on Otley Road which is how it was sold when initially launched.

“If the intention is to get more people cycling, which is a perfectly sensible aim, this scheme appears to be an expensive way of delivering the objective. Perhaps a better option would be to publicise the existing network of cycle paths to a greater extent.”

Some residents at this week’s meeting agreed and said the money would be better spent on improving bus services.

But the leaflet drew a stinging rebuke from the campaign group Harrogate District Cycle Action, which fired off a series of tweets that accused Hapara of “misleading” statements.


For example, the leaflet said construction would result in the loss of five trees around the junction of Otley Rd and Beckwith Road, which Harrogate District Cycle Action said “would only be lost if the council widens the road to create extra lanes for motor vehicles”.

The cycling group also said the leaflet was wrong to say there was a “strong negative public response” to phase two because 104 people told a second round of consultation they were in favour of going ahead while only 83 were against, despite the comments by Cllr Duncan, the council’s executive member for highways, saying the project was shelved due to its unpopularity.

It concluded:

“Overall, the individuals steering Hapara are not serving or representing the residents of the local area well by taking such a hostile stance to cycling. Hapara should be working with the council to create the best cycle facilities possible in Otley Road.”

Speaking after Wednesday’s meeting, Hapara chair Rene Dziabas said:

“I am not opposed to cycling but I do think the whole basis on which this scheme was conceived was wrong. It was never going to provide the mitigation required on Otley Road.”

Cyclists are frustrated about the council failing to deliver on schemes in Harrogate and Knaresborough. While pleased to see progress, many share concerns that such a disjointed scheme on Otley Road will make a significant difference, particularly as without phase two it won’t form the holy grail of an integrated route around town.

Public consultation concerns

Cllr Mike Schofield not only has a political interest in the matter but also a personal one. As the independent North Yorkshire councillor for Harlow and St George’s, the cycleway is on his patch. He is also landlord of the Shepherd’s Dog pub on Otley Road, which the extended cycleway will pass.

The Shepherd’s Dog

Cllr Schofield said he had two concerns:

“Whilst I accept that appropriate legal requirements may have been satisfied I am extremely disappointed that no public consultation is to take place for the residents of Harlow Hill, Beckwithshaw and those who use the Otley Road corridor.

“Yes, residents can make their viewpoints known via the planning portal and searching through the planning application documentation but that can be like wading through a minefield whereas a simple consultation would make it more accessible and easier for residents.”

He added:

“I also have concerns around the developer funding, my worry being that developers of sites that are not on the Otley Road corridor may seek ways of avoiding their financial commitment to the scheme and therefore leaving the residents of Harlow Hill and Beckwithshaw with a substandard and not fit-for-purpose scheme as we have in phase one.

“It seems to me so much is either still undecided, up in the air or being kept very secret.”

The Stray Ferret contacted the council requesting more details about the scheme, including why it had decided to revive it and the expected cost.

A council spokesperson said, as the highways authority, it was a statutory consultee in the planning application process and not the promoters of any of the off-site mitigation measures being offered.

Allan McVeigh, the council’s head of network strategy, added:

“The third phase of Otley Road cycle route has been progressed as part of developer-funded off-site works linked to the west of Harrogate planning applications, rather than a scheme promoted by the council.

“The planning application process will form the consultation, as is the case for all other off-site highway works put forward by developers. The timescale for construction will depend on how the applications progress and are determined.

The cycle route is back on the agenda. But the route ahead remains unclear.

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