Harrogate’s greatest asset is under threat - our unique and very precious Stray.
After months of speculation Harrogate Council has now launched its ‘consultation’ regarding their wish to have the Stray Act of Parliament changed to allow them to restrict people’s free and open use of the Stray by allowing events beyond the terms set out in that Act. In other words, our council want to make commercial capital out of the Stray.
Such changes could mean huge differences in the way the Stray is used and how often. Yet this consultation merely asks broad questions about how much extension of time and space people would like to see; would they like to see more and more frequent, larger and more diverse events held.
It should be noted that the council have not set out their wishes but have merely asked for, and are hoping to get, a free mandate from the people of the district. An unconsidered response made without full awareness of the facts, and the inevitable results, could see people signing away their rights over this unparalleled resource.
Without the protection of the Parliamentary Act there could be a free for all on the Stray, restrictions about when local people can use it, constant events, noise and damage, together with a huge influx of cars as people travel to these events. And where will all these cars park? On the Stray? That would seem almost inevitable.
The sheer joy of the Stray is that it offers an area of environmentally sound tranquillity, a traffic free green lung in the very heart of Harrogate. It is there for the unrestricted use of the people; for their pleasure and peace of mind; for leisure and long walks; early morning runs; late night strolls; children’s games, a place to ‘stand and stare’.
Cleverly phrased questions in a questionnaire are one thing, the question of exactly how much the council wants things to change is another. However, the biggest question of all is what the future holds for our Stray if the Parliamentary Act currently protecting it is changed to allow its commercialisation.
Our Stray embodies Harrogate. It is, inevitably, the first thing that people notice when they come here, the thing that says ‘I’m home’, when those fortunate to live here return.
Its future lies in our hands, in our answers to this consultation. Those of us who have enjoyed it, used it, loved it. As the Stray Defence Association website says: “We have not inherited the Stray from our parents; we have borrowed it from our children.”
Now the ultimate question is - will our children enjoy the Stray as we and previous generations have done?
We have a collective responsibility to safeguard the Stray for them.
Please, answer the questionnaire, and please answer it wisely, to protect what future generations will inherit.
Judy d’Arcy Thompson
Chairman, The Stray Defence Association