Why we want to relax the rules over The Stray - Harrogate Council

Cherry blossom on The Stray earlier in the year.
Cherry blossom on The Stray earlier in the year.

Harrogate Borough Council has spelt out the reasons why it wants to relax the ultra-strict rules to protect Harrogate’s most famous landmark The Stray.

Changing the terms of the Stray Act, which protects the town’s treasured green space, is likely to provoke strong reactions across the town when the council launches a public consultation next month.

A spokesman for the council said: "The aim of the public consultation is to gauge opinion on whether the authority should seek to amend legislation to increase the opportunity to hold more and different types of events on The Stray.

"We believe there is public support for a modest increase in the number of events held on the land and a desire for greater flexibility around the type and scale of those events.

"We recognise, however, that The Stray is a public open space and that the principle of free access for informal recreation must be promoted and protected.

"The purpose of the consultation is to test the public appetite for change and to understand how far they want us to go in making that change possible.

The Harrogate Advertiser is asking readers for their views in its letters page and onlione via its Facebook page as the council prepares to launch its consultation next month on what would be the biggest revolution to hit The Stray since the the Enclosure Act was first passed in 1770.

The guardians of this 200-acre stretch of open grassland, the Stray Defence Association, are expressing caution over the news.

Chairman Judy d’Arcy Thompson said: “The beauty and tranquilty of The Stray is synonymous with Harrogate. It’s the first thing people see when they drive into town or arrive by train.

“The Stray Defence Association will be looking at the proposals very carefully. The consultations will certainly have to be extra thorough and held at a time when people an be expected to take an interest.

“It is too important an issue to be rushed through in any way, shape or form. We understand certain parts of the council’s viewpoint but we always say that we have not inherited the Stray from our parents, we have borrowed it from our children.”

Harrogate Borough Council says the restrictions of the Stray Act cause it regular difficulties when it comes to extra requests to hold smaller, innovative events such as local food festivals, concerts, and, even, plans for next year’s Tour de Yorkshire.

Coun Michael Harrison, deputy leader of Harrogate Borough Council, said: “We are not looking to drastically increase the number of events that are held on the land, we are simply wanting to be able to have more flexibility over how the Stray can be used. I believe amending the Stray Act would have a real benefit for the community, and I look forward to hearing people’s views on the proposal.”

The SDA will be holding a meeting to discuss the proposal next week.

The council is likely to launch its public consultation on November 14.