Time for Stray to get 'positive' future after muddy UCI debacle in Harrogate

One of Harrogate's most respected organisations has given its views on the Stray and is calling for something positive to come from the muddy saga of the UCI cycling championships.

Monday, 9th December 2019, 5:12 pm
Updated Monday, 9th December 2019, 5:32 pm
Opening a debate - The public footpaths may have started reopening on the West Park Stray in Harrogate but what sort of events should take place in future?

Throughout the recent dark days for the devastated and water-logged Stray at West Park, The Stray Defence Association has been liaising with all the relevant organisations involved to achieve a successful outcome to the current situation.

The volunteer guardians group told the Harrogate Advertiser its know just how difficult the task of restoring the parkland is for workers at Harrogate Borough council.

In an attempt to turn a negative situation into something positive, the The Stray Defence Association has raised a new proposal - that a community bulb planting project should be carried out to restore the area’s floral glory.

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Such is the scale of the West Park Stray’s problems, this is unlikely to be achieved before next autumn.

Judy D’Arcy Thompson, the SDA’s chairman said: “Harrogate Borough Council has already agreed to it, and the SDA has approached the Rotary Club, Dementia Forward and Marie Curie with a view to using the occasion to highlight their work for charities, too.

“However, such is the state of the West Park Stray that this has been put ‘on hold’ until September 2020, when it is hope that the bulb planting can go ahead and combined with another event on the Stray.”

Under fire from some residents who loved the UCI cycling championships, the SDA has also taken the time to spell out its philosophy.

It says it is not against events per se, just the wrong events which cause serious damage.

Judy D’Arcy Thompson said: “Harrogate treasures its Stray for its beauty, sense of peace and tranquillity as well as its vital environmental role as a green lung in the heart of the town, a natural benefit promoting wellbeing.

“Everyone can use the Stray, and each has their own individual way of doing so.

“The Stray Defence Association works to ensure that people do respect it and can access and enjoy these benefits for centuries yet to come.

“Holding events is a wonderful part of enjoying our Stray.

“However, we believe that any such events should have a ‘soft footprint’ on the Stray.”

The SDA's approach is echoed by another voluntary independent organisation which does a lot for the town.

Harrogate Civic Society is a voluntary independent organisation which has existed for more than 40 years to enhance the character and amenities of Harrogate while protecting and preserving all the best of the past.

Stuart Holland and Susan Amaku, co vice chairs, said the Stray was too precious to be treated badly but it should be open to the right events.

They said: "We are not simply concerned with the historical past of the town but recognise that the future is equally important.

"We, therefore, strive to play a positive role in shaping the way our town will develop.

"The Stray lies at the heart of Harrogate’s unique character. With regard to the use of the Stray, like so many others in the town, we did not support the principle of changes to the Stray Act during the consultation in 2017.

"Following the extensive damage to West Park Stray as a result of the UCI event, our immediate concern is that it should be restored and re-opened to the public as soon as possible.

"The Stray Act restricts the type and duration of any events on the Stray but we would welcome being involved in any discussions about whether more use could be made of it for community events that have a ‘very light footprint’."

As Harrogate Borough Council strives to repair the Stray, it says it will take the viewpoints of residents into consideration when considering suggestions for public events on the Stray.

Harrogate Borough Council leader Coun Richard Cooper said: "The UCI cycling championships were possible because of a temporary relaxation to the Stray Act granted by the Regulatory Reform Committee in the House of Commons.

"The council has committed that it will not apply for any further temporary relaxations

"Therefore, all future events need to comply with the provisions of the Stray Act in terms of how many days are used for the events and the area of the Stray that is utilised.

"Applications will be assessed in future as they were prior to the UCI event taking place.

"Feedback from residents about events that have happened in the past - such as the fairground on York Place Stray, the big screen for major sports events on West Park Stray and the Christmas Market on Montpellier Stray - will be taking into account when speaking to events organisers about future events."