New cycle route proposals are setting alarm bells ringing with the organisation pledged to safeguard Harrogate's Stray.
Chairman of the Stray Defence Association, Judy d’Arcy Thompson says North Yorkshire County Council's plans for an offroad cycle route along Otley Road between Cardale Park and the Prince of Wales roundabout not only represent a threat to the integrity of the 200 acres of open grassland and verges.
She also argues it would involve the loss of dozens of trees in the area and set a dangerous precedent for further Stray reducing-traffic measures.
But county councillor Don MacKenzie said the new measure was in the town's best environmental interests and the authorities would take care to set aside land elsewhere to replace any grass lost.
First formed in 1933 to protect the 200 acres of public parkland in the town centre against building and encroachment, the SDA says the plans for a cycle route all the way up Otley Road wouldturn out to be more disruptive than first thought.
In a letter to the Harrogate Advertiser, the SDA chairman Judy d’Arcy Thompson said: "Little imagination is needed to think that for an ‘off road’ cycle way of this length and ‘extra traffic lanes’ there will have to be considerable reconfiguring of Otley Road, with all the grass verges removed and replaced with tarmac surfaces and, not least, that most, if not all, of the mature avenue of trees will be facing the sharpened axes of NYCC."
The SDA says it also unhappy at the lack of public consultation over the plans.
Judy d’Arcy Thompson said: "It would seem that these plans have been merrily progressing with the connivance of North Yorkshire County Council, Harrogate Borough Council, et al, but without any thought of consulting others who may be effected."
But Coun Don MacKenzie said the authorities had behaved sensitively towards The Stray in similar situations before and would do so this time, too.
Coun MacKenzie said: “Officers at both North Yorkshire County Council and Harrogate Borough Council, and I are very mindful of the restrictions which limit the use of Stray land, including verges adjacent to the highways radiating away from it.
“When I was HBC Cabinet Member for Planning and Transport from 2007-2011 we introduced six dual-use paths for pedestrians and cyclists at the eastern end of the Stray near to the Empress Roundabout.
"We took care then to take all necessary steps to obtain approval for the construction of those paths, and to set aside land elsewhere to replace the grass which we had taken away to widen the existing paths.
“Officers from both authorities will take equal care when the proposed Otley Road cyclepath scheme is progressed."
“The creation of off-road facilities for cyclists is very effective in making this type of sustainable transport more popular and much safer, at the same time as helping to overcome the problems of congestion and poor air quality”.
The SDA is worried the new cycle route will simply be the tip of the iceberg.
Judy d’Arcy Thompson said: "The proposed route from Cardale continues down past Harlow Moor Road then reaches the crossroads of Cold Bath Road and Arthurs Avenue. From here to where Otley Road joins the main body of the Stray, the land on each side of the road is actually Stray land.
"These are known as the Otley Road Stray slips and this is true regardless of whether the area is grassed or not.
"As Harrogate people know, our Stray belongs to us, is cherished by us, and is protected by an Act of Parliament. Still protected despite recent efforts to affect alteration to the Act. Paving, tarmacing or otherwise covering over parts of the Stray is prohibited.
"If Otley Road’s Stray slips were to be so covered would there shortly be a call to, ‘ease congestion’, by adding a lane to Wetherby/Leeds/ Skipton Roads, slicing into the adjacent Stray?
"Where would replacement Stray land be found? Are we going to see the day when the Stray’s 200 acres are reduced to a field somewhere on the edge of town?"