Tour de France: Guarding Harrogate Stray

NADV 1406188AM1 Judy Darcy Thompson.  Judy Darcy Thompson Graham Marlow, Syd Bell and David Darcy Thompson. (1406188AM1)
NADV 1406188AM1 Judy Darcy Thompson. Judy Darcy Thompson Graham Marlow, Syd Bell and David Darcy Thompson. (1406188AM1)

Harrogate Stray Defence Association has pleaded with residents to be “guardians of the Stray” during the Tour de France.

Almost one quarter of the 80 hectares of land will be sectioned off for the Grand Depart after Harrogate Borough Council decided to use the land as a spectator hub.

Despite initial objections from the SDA, the Stray Act of 1985 has been relaxed by the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Eric Pickles, to allow spectators to witness the uphill sprint on Parliament Street.

The initial idea was met with an open letter of stern resistance from the chairwoman of the association, Judy d’Arcy Thompson, in December 2013 to the Harrogate Advertiser and the Secretary of State.

However, after close discussions with the council, Ms d’Arcy Thompson believes adequate provisions are in place to protect the Stray but hopes residents will also be vigilant.

She said: “I’m hoping that visitors to Harrogate will leave thinking how lovely the Stray is and how important it is to our town and everyone will work together to help guard it.

“We would be delighted if everyone that visits for the Tour, and all those living in Harrogate, acted as guardians of the Stray and stay aware of any public damage – to ensure it remains protected.

“I want to stress that I’m not expecting any visitors to become vandals but we need to be watchful for anyone doing anything to the land that they’re not actually allowed to do.” More than 100,000 visitors are expected to descend on Harrogate next weekend o and the new ruling will temporarily nullify the protection given to the area.

From Monday, June 23, to TuesdayJuly 8, an enclosed secure technical zone will be housed on the Stray to include approximately 130 trucks as well as temporary living accommodation for the technicians.

Facilities for spectators will also be stationed there, including at least two grandstands, a large screen for spectators and approximately 300 toilets. The council have assured the SDA that the area will be fully restored in an agreed upon time but Ms d’Arcy Thompson remains concerned about the impact of potentially disruptive weather. She said: “There will be a huge influx of people and it will be difficult for the council to restore it in the agreed upon time frame if there is torrential rain that weekend.

“We have agreed that they will put the Stray back to square one but I can’t control the weather so that could mean the churning up of the Stray. You can never legislate for rain.”

Ms d’Arcy Thompson has been pleased with the council’s plans to ensure maximum protection to see the Stray reinstated in the quickest possible time. These provisions include a special tracking mesh being rolled out by the army to protect the ground from the multitude of vehicles and businesses, to putting in a bond for everything to leave in the agreed upon time.

However, as well as relying on the council’s assistance in protecting the Stray, Ms d’Arcy Thompson is hopeful spectators in the area will also play their part in ensuring the correct behaviour is maintained on the valued land.

She said: “We are all very much behind the Tour de France and holding it will be beneficial to the district but with that comes a huge number of visitors and vehicles and the general circus that goes along with any event.

“What we would like is for everybody to be watchful. I’m hoping people will use their common sense and if people see anything untoward, maybe like building a fire, potentially causing problems they will contact me or the authorities.“There has been a level of concern because people realise how important it is.

“We are just trying to say save our Stray in the nicest possible way.”