A PARISH leader has accused city council officers of employing arm-twisting tactics in a public consultation about radical plans to create York's first toll road.

Coun Steve Kenwright, chairman of Fulford Parish Council, may report City of York Council to the Local Government Ombudsman over what he sees as "leading" wording in a six-page consultation document on four different proposals to create a toll road or bollard system in Heslington Lane, Fulford.

The scheme is designed to curb congestion caused by the proposed University of York expansion at Heslington East, which council officers estimate would increase peak-time traffic by more than a quarter.

Coun Kenwright claims the document implies that the 65-hectare development is a forgone conclusion, forcing residents to make a choice between "lesser evils".

"The city council is twisting local people's arms by threatening them with a development that has yet to be decided," he told the Evening Press, adding that he would support a "sensible scheme" such as a rising bollard operating at peak times.

Coun Kenwright said additional options could have been considered if Fulford Parish Council had been contacted before public consultation.

"We know this area and we know the community and the road," he said. "We could have offered a number of alternative suggestions."

Fulford Parish Council has yet to pick its preferred option from the four available.

The document setting out options under consideration was circulated to residents living between Fulford Road and Hull Road. They were invited to a one-day exhibition in Heslington last week.

Coun Kenwright said all residents in Fulford and Osbaldwick should have received the document. He was calling for a public meeting about the plans for those who could not attend, or who were unaware of, the exhibition.

"Although this road is described as a rat run, we feel it is a long-established and desperately needed road between two communities," he said.

"Closing it would mean residents could lose the route to their local doctor's surgery, church or bank."

The city council's executive member for planning and transport, Ann Reid, said the consultation was approved by members of the advisory panel, who felt an exhibition would allow people to gain more information than a public meeting.

Updated: 08:28 Friday, April 23, 2004