Stray changes: Council pledges "we won't ignore public opinion"

Harrogate Borough Council deputy leader Coun Michael Harrison.
Harrogate Borough Council deputy leader Coun Michael Harrison.
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As consultation on what has been the most controversial issue in Harrogate for many years draws to a close, Harrogate Borough Council has pledged that nothing is cut and dried in their plans over the Stray.

And the council's deputy leader said if the plans were rejected overwhelmingly by the public it would be "the end of it."

The council has made it plain it is keen to make changes to the Stray Act to make it possible to hold more public events without having to ask Parliament’s permission each time.

But with the current period of public consultation ending next Monday, the council’s deputy leader Coun Michael Harrison emphasised it would responsive to the town’s feelings on the issue.

"If the response was fundamentally against any change we wouldn't do it. That would be the end of it."If the Duchy of Lancaster said "no" that would be the end of it.

"Even if the public support having more events and changing the rules in a small way, Parliament might not be in favour and might say "no, leave the Act as it is."

He said: “The idea that the council is in control of the issue and would run roughshod over other points of view is incorrect.

“We’re testing the Harrogate public’s appetite for change. It may be people like the idea of a lot more events or they might like to see a small number of new events and only minor changes to the rules but they may be worried about safeguards to protect The Stray. The public consultation isn’t like the Brexit referendum or a General Election where if you get 51%, that’s it, you’ve won. That isn’t what we are trying to do.

“We don’t own the land, the Duchy of Lancaster does, and we don’t control Parliament.”

Coun Harrison also emphasised that, while not a referendum, the results of the extensive public consultation on relaxing the rules protecting the Stray which the council launched nearly three months ago would be put in the public domain for all to see.

“The next step after public consultation will be to collate all the various public opinions made on the subject from a variety of sources and present it to the Duchy of Lancaster who will decide whether we should proceed with any changes.

“There will be no secrets. We will be sharing the results with the general public. The results will be a matter of public record.”

This week has also seen members of Harrogate District Chamber of Commerce give their cautious support to the council’s plans with the proviso that management measures be put in place for holding more public events.