Pressure group hails Stray decision as "victory for common sense"

Judy dArcy Thompson, chairman of the Stray Defence Association.
Judy dArcy Thompson, chairman of the Stray Defence Association.
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The Stray's strongest supporters have called Harrogate Council's decision to ditch controversial plans to change the rules protecting it as a "victory for common sense".

Harrogate Borough Council's aims of boosting the town's economic prospects and visitor numbers by making it easier to hold events on the Stray prompted a huge reaction - the biggest-ever response to a council consultation.

The proposals to change the Stray Act would have enabled the council to hold more public events there without resorting to Parliament for approval.

But the SDA said the amount of public reaction in this long-running debate showed the continued importance of the charity's organisation's role.

Mrs Judy d’Arcy Thompson said: "We are delighted that common sense and the will of the people has prevailed.

"Unquestionably, Harrogate holds its Stray very dear and people have shown, equally clearly, that they do not want lose control over it.

"The consultation exercise has proved that, although the SDA was formed 84 years ago, it is still a much-needed institution, as Malcom Neesam’s excellent article in last week's Harrogate Advertiser revealed.

"Our members, both long standing and new, are all committed to ensuring that what we say on our website remains true, ‘We have not inherited the Stray from our Parents. We have borrowed it from our children.’"

Although there was a cautious welcome from certain sections of the public and local groups, opposition to changing The Stray Act was widespread on the grounds of potential damage to this precious green space and over-commercialisation of a public assett.

Last week's statement from Harrogate Borough Council said it would take some time to analyse all the comments and suggestions about the Stray, but interim results had indicated no clear majority for change.

The SDA is calling for transparency from Harrogate Borough Council and said the full results of the consultation should now be revealed as soon as possible.

Judy d’Arcy Thompson said "We should now be given full details of exactly what people voted and the numbers involved.

"There needs to be much needed transparency over the results of this consultation."

Harrogate Borough Council's aims of boosting the town's economic prospects and visitor numbers by making it easier to hold events on the Stray prompted a huge reaction - the biggest-ever response to a council consultation.

The SDA said the most important thing has been to ensure the public had had enough information to make their minds up properly on this controversial and complex issue.

Judy d’Arcy Thompson said: "Harrogate is defined by the Stray and so much of what people love about our beautiful town is linked to its splendour."

"As, The Stray Defence Association, we felt our role was to ensure that people were informed of the proposals in as much detail as possible and, therefore, able to make an informed decision about the future of the Stray.

"To this end, as well as our extensive social media coverage, we had over 5000 leaflets printed, which were then hand delivered around the town.

"This has certainly helped inform people and ensure, along with ourselves, that the issues around these proposals were properly aired."

The SDA also thanked various people for contributing to victory over the plans to change the Stray.

Judy d’Arcy Thompson said: "We must thank the dedication of the committee and many members who were so hardworking and determined that the Stray would be saved for future generations.

"Much gratitude, too, to the Harrogate Advertiser for its lengthy and very fair coverage of the rolling debate over the weeks."