Harrogate MP calls for 'no legal action' over licensed Stray use in temporary measure to boost businesses

Harrogate’s MP has taken the rare step of approaching the Duchy of Lancaster in a wrangle over the Stray as the town’s hospitality sector tries to put its new freedoms to best use.

Tuesday, 20th April 2021, 5:19 pm
Harrogate and Knaresborough MP Andrew Jones has taken the rare step of approaching the Duchy of Lancaster on behalf of the hospitality sector in a wrangle over the Stray.

After a number of the town’s bars contacted Mr Andrew Jones to complain they had been refused permission to access public spaces to serve customers outdoors as encouraged by the Government as part of the roadmap out of lockdown, the Harrogate and Knaresborough MP said both he, and Harrogate Borough Council were on their side.

Mr Jones said supporting Harrogate’s hard-pressed hospitality sector to survive while Covid restrictions remained was vital.

He said: “It seems sensible during this period until full re-opening on June 21that we use more of the space we are blessed with in Harrogate town centre to support our hospitality industry.

“I have spoken to Harrogate Borough Council and they support using the Stray selectively to support businesses such as the Blues Bar and the Empress.”

While Harrogate council has a duty to protect the Stray by law, the land is actually run by the Duchy of Lancaster and is part of 18,481 hectares of land owned by The Queen across England and Wales.

The Stray Defence Association, which has striven to defend the parkland at all time since being founded in 1933, is on the record of opposing its use for commercial purposes, though events such as UCI cycling championships and Harrogate Fake Festivals have taken place in recent years.

But the town’s MP says those protections should be relaxed in this particular situation and the Duchy of Lancaster should refrain from taking any legal action in situations where the council has given permission to a trader or landlord.

Andrew Jones said: “As landowners, the Duchy of Lancaster, is yet to give its permission for the land to be used in this way even as a temporary measure.

“I have, therefore, written to the Chief Executive of the Duchy of Lancaster and asked him to confirm that the Duchy would not take legal action against the council or businesses the council licences to use small areas of the Stray for this short amount of time.

“That to me seems a common sense approach for the Duchy to take between now and full re-opening of our economy in June.”

But there is still some discontent over the difficulties and, sometimes, impossibility of some traders in Harrogate’s hospitality sector to operate outdoors only for the moment.

The question of businesses using pavements until a possible further loosening of rules on May 17 to allow indoors eating and drinking is one in the jurisdiction of North Yorkshire County Council, the highways authority, and Harrogate Borough Councill which grants permission to trade outside on the public footpath.

One bar, Starling Independent Bar Cafe Kitchen, has already complained that its request for a temporary pavement licence outside its premises.

Harrogate Borough Council says it has tried to be helpful but considerations such as traffic, access and safety have to be taken into account.

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