How interesting to read the views of Mick Walsh, the man with unique experience of dealing with the Stray and the Duchy of Lancaster on behalf of the council for a number of years.
Interesting too that he confirms the view of ourselves and the Harrogate Civic Society that “The idea that the Duchy of Lancaster is a safety net is not in accordance with their actions over the years”.
Coun Harrison has repeatedly said over recent weeks that the Duchy of Lancaster would act as a safeguard, and would be there to hold in check and curb, where necessary, any future plans HBC might have for the Stray. Far from reassuring us this has achieved the opposite, particularly when thinking of HBC’s own minutes clearly announcing that:
“The council would wish any permanent order to contain a provision whereby the Duchy of Lancaster could consent to a temporary suspension of these presumptive rights: or alternatively that the council itself could vote in full council to such a suspension with a right of ‘appeal’ to the Duchy of Lancaster by any person opposing that motion.”
Who really believes that the remote, London based echelons of the Duchy of Lancaster would do more than defer to the council, locally based and on hand to deal with such matters? In Mr Walsh’s words: “They cannot be regarded as guardians of the Stray.”
Many more people will now be aware of precisely what is incorporated in the Stray’s 200 acres. Areas of “payback” land in some very weird and wonderful areas that most would deem improbable places to be called ”the Stray”.
This is why what is being called for is doubly duplicitous. A mere 25 per cent overall? No. As Mr Walsh says, more like 35 per cent. Together with a much, much greater period of time, with much, much more intrusion into what the people of Harrogate know, cherish and expect of their precious Stray.
Does Harrogate truly want to be looking out over a spring and summer Stray almost constantly covered in some “event” or other? Or watching said event being put up or dismantled? Surely this is not what the Stray is all about. Surely this is not giving people the right to free access to their Stray?
There is a very real fear that the council, given the opportunity, will utilise the Stray for as long and for whatever they choose, with little or no constraint or scrutiny, having given themselves the right in any new Parliamentary Act, as shown in their own minutes, to suspend any such Act.
And, as Mr Walsh stated, monetary considerations may well be paramount in the motivation for change of both HBC and Duchy of Lancaster.
Just some of the many reasons everyone should be so very concerned and should do the consultation - with great care.
Judy d’Arcy Thompson
The Stray Defence Association