What is a week? Well, a minute is 60 consecutive seconds, an hour is 60 consecutive minutes, a day is 24 consecutive hours and, yes, a week is seven consecutive days.But, though the Harrogate Stray Act says that the Stray shall not be inclosed for more than five weeks in the year, the council interpret this as any 35 days.
There is no ambiguity, the council are just plain wrong. And in using 35 days, events actually stretch over at least 10 weeks, twice that allowed by the Act.
Now, the council ‘are seeking views on modernising the Stray Act to increase the variety, frequency and size of events’. What a weasel word ‘modernising’ is.
What the council mean is that they are seeking further to erode the main purpose of the Act which is that ‘the inhabitants of the borough shall have free access to and a privilege at all times of enjoying recreation upon the Stray without payment but subject to the provisions of this Act’.
The Act then refers to allowable ‘encroachments’ to this free access, including the events that are limited to five weeks in any year.
I would happily support the council in using the Stray better and I was thrilled when the Tour de France came to town.
But the answer here, surely, is to improve the quality of events held on the Stray, not increasing their variety and frequency.
By getting rid of the dross - and the pleasure fairs and the fake fair would be high on my personal list - the council could get the time taken up by worthwhile events well within the five weeks limit. Without breaking the law.
Please make your own views known to the council by filling in the questionnaire to be found at www.harrogate.gov.uk/strayact. The survey closes on Monday, February 6.