Tour de France mastermind backs controversial Stray changes

Supporting more public events on the Stray - Sir Gary Verity.
Supporting more public events on the Stray - Sir Gary Verity.
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Harrogate Borough Council’s controversial bid to relax rules protecting the Stray received a triple boost when Sir Gary Verity, the town’s MP Andrew Jones and the Harrogate District Chamber of Commerce all announced their support for the changes.

Opinion in the town has been divided since the council launched its public consultation over its plans last November.

The Stray Defence Association has argued that holding more public events on the Stray would cause untold damage.

And Harrogate Civic Society this week also joined the voices of disapproval.

But the argument to bring more public events on the Stray to boost Harrogate’s economy has been strengthened by a decisive intervention in the debate by the man who brought the Tour De France to Yorkshire.

Sir Gary Verity, the chief executive of Welcome to Yorkshire, said: “Yorkshire’s Grand Départ proved that The Stray can host major international events attracting thousands of visitors, global media attention and taking the profile of Harrogate up to the next level.

“The Stray is a very special and important piece of land and protection of it is vital but the proposals to localise decision-making to allow greater flexibility over its use is of equal importance.

“If the two needs can be balanced adequately and the checks and balances are in place to ensure the Stray is safeguarded, then I am very much in favour of supporting the move.”

And he was joined in his support by Harrogate and Knaresborough MP Andrew Jones said: “Every time our area wants to hold a spectacular – like I hope the Tour de Yorkshire will be – we have to apply to Parliament to relax the Stray Act so that we can.

“We need a better way to make decisions on using the Stray or else we are likely to lose any possibility of holding any more events on it or expanding those currently in operation.”