Time running out for public consultation on events on the Stray

The Stray in Harrogate.
The Stray in Harrogate.
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Have your say

Harrogate Borough Council has confirmed the next step in its bid to relax the laws protecting the Stray.

As part of its public consultation over allowing more events on this 200 acres of park land, the council is currently holding a Stray information exhibition on weekdays
But, in a new effort to reassure the public, the exhibition will also be open over two weekends preceding the end of public consultation on February 6.
The council says what it does after that depends on the result of a survey of public opinion on its website which closes in two weeks' time.
A spokesman said: “”If this general consultation does demonstrate public support for the principle of making changes to the Stray Act, then specific proposals will be brought forward via Parliament in conjunction with the Duchy for a formal consultation.”
Under the Stray Act, only 3.5 hectares (the size of three international rugby pitches) can be enclosed by fencing or tents or marquees at any time, and the total time any part of the Stray can be enclosed must not exceed 35 days in any one year.
The restrictions of the Act present difficulties when it comes to extra requests to hold smaller, innovative events such as local food festivals, concerts, outdoor cinema and games tournaments.

Worried by changes to Stray Act - Mick Walsh, a former chief executive of Harrogate Borough Council.

Worried by changes to Stray Act - Mick Walsh, a former chief executive of Harrogate Borough Council.

Ex-council chief worried by changes
Such is the heat in this controverse, Mick Walsh, a former chief executive of Harrogate Borough, has emailed the Harrogate Advertiser at some length in response to points made by the council in recent editions.
He says he gives a cautious welcome to some of the council’s proposals to relax the rules protecting the Stray in order to hold more public events.
But the former council solicitor also raises a long list of worries.
He says: “It still seems to me that there are a lot of uncertainties so I still have a number of caveats and would like some answers to a number of questions.”
The council was keen to respond and has done so.
What follows is part one of a two-part feature on the former chief executive’s questions and the current council’s answers.

Mick Walsh on: Using 20 hectares up to twice a year
“I can see some value in a much larger enclosure as long as it is limited to only twice a year at most but 20 hectares is a lot especially when of the 80 hectares said to be Stray some of it is verge on Wetherby Road, some is part of the Crown Roundabout and a fair amount is on the slope down West Park or adjoins Christ Church and Skipton Road.
“That really means that the section of Stray usable for large events namely that part adjoining Knaresborough Road would be more significantly affected and using 20 hectares is more like 35% of that than 25% That is too much in my opinion.”

Harrogate Borough Council deputy leader Coun Michael Harrison’s response
“Mr Walsh acknowledges the need to make occasional provision for events larger than the 3.5ha currently allowed by the Act.
“The most relevant figure to reference here is the 15ha utilised for the Tour de France. The suggestion of 20ha is the Council’s view of an absolute maximum which should not be exceeded.
“The figure would allow a returning TdF, should Harrogate be successful in securing this, with a little more room to breathe than was permitted first time around.
The 20ha figure is merely a suggestion and the Council is keen to hear public views on this point.”

Mick Walsh on: The Duchy of Lancaster safety net
“The idea that the Duchy of Lancaster is a safety net is not in accordance with their actions over the years.
“They have been keen to maximise profit which has meant charging home owners for vehicle crossings over Stray verges and suggests to me that if the Council got power to charge for large events the Duchy would be only too keen to get its share!
“They cannot be regarded as guardians of the Stray.”

Harrogate Borough Council deputy leader Coun Michael Harrison’s response
“The Duchy will, no doubt, wish to respond in their own right, to the points made by Mr Walsh and we do not believe it is appropriate for the Council to make assumptions about, nor to assign motives to actions or positions taken by the Duchy in the future.
“The key point here is that the Council believes there should be a safety net in relation to the larger events and has suggested this could be through requiring the consent of the Duchy, as owners of the Stray.
“The Duchy seem best placed to undertake this role. We remain open to suggestions of alternatives.”

Mick Walsh on: The 35 days rule
“I would support the exclusion of set up and breakdown time from the 35 days as a reasonable modernisation of the Act provided that the Council also limit the amount of time that set up and breakdown would take.
For example, it would not seem appropriate to allow fairground vehicles to remain in situ for a week or so after the fair closes.”

Harrogate Borough Council deputy leader Coun Michael Harrison’s response
“Mr Walsh accepts the need to exclude set up and breakdown time from the 35 day calculation.
“He suggests that a limit be set on the amount of time allowed for set up and breakdown and we agree.
“The intention would be to negotiate such terms with individual event organisers, the aim being to ensure that only such time as is genuinely needed to erect and dismantle infrastructure is allowed.”

Public consultation and Stray exhibition

The Stray exhibition on how the Stray is used is located daily in the foyer at St Peter’s Church on Cambridge Street.
And it is also open to the public on the following dates:
Saturday 28 January, 11am-2.30pm. Sunday 29 January, 11am-2.30pm. Saturday 4 February, 11am-2.30pm.
The public consultation is available to complete at www.harrogate.gov.uk/strayact
What do you think? Email your views to us at news@harrogateadvertiser.co.uk or visit the Harrogate Advertiser Facebook page