Letter: The Stray - We must remain ever vigilant

Harrogate citizens with any interest in the welfare of their town should familiarise themselves with the council's future plan to amend the Stray legislation.

Thursday, 3rd November 2016, 10:30 am
Updated Wednesday, 16th November 2016, 3:20 pm
The Stray

Since the Act of 1770 which conceived the concept of a public open space of 200 acres and the resulting Great Award of 1778, every subsequent piece of legislation has preserved two concepts which have guaranteed continuation of public rights: [1] dual ownership shared between the Crown and the people; [2] right of free and unrestricted access.

Each successive Act of Parliament, including those of 1789, 1841, 1893, 1985 and 1986, whatever their faults, enshrined these two concepts. That the local authority, and indeed some individuals, have found sections of this legislation to be inconvenient is precisely why the Stray has survived.

Without these inconveniences, the siren attractions of expediency and financial profitability would have had such things created on the Stray as a lake, a conference centre, exhibition halls, a sports complex, a multi-lane roadway and an enclosure for hula hoop enthusiasts.

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Some of these abortive projects were proposed with the best will in the world: the local economy would be strengthened, tourism boosted, jobs provided, transportation enhanced and – most dangerously – public opinion was said to be in favour.

Now it may be that Harrogate’s present council is the wisest, best informed and most public spirited council ever, and that they will resist the temptation to tinker with legislation so that currently fashionable schemes can be implemented by reducing the public’s historic rights over the Stray, but whatever the case, the public must be vigilant to protect the principle of unrestricted and free access to the greater part of the Stray for the greater part of each year.

Malcolm Neesam