Harrogate's Stray act will be lifted 'for the last time' to host world cycling event in 2019

The Stray.
The Stray.

A protected area of grassland surrounding historic Harrogate is set to be used to host one of the world's biggest cycle races in what is likely to be the last ever major event held on it.

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Last night (Wednesday), Harrogate Borough Council agreed to apply to the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, James Brokenshire MP, to suspend the Stray Act for the "final time."

The Stray, 200 hectares of grassland which surrounds the "old town" area of Harrogate is protected under law. Only 35 days of events each year can be held there and just 3.5 hectares can be shut off at one time.

Harrogate Council needs one of the restrictions in the 1984 act to be lifted so the UCI Road World Championships cycling festival can be hosted in September 2019.

Harrogate will host the finish to all of the races during the nine-day event, with an estimated 20 hectares needing to be closed off - believed to be one of the largest ever closures for an event on the Stray.

The council has previously asked the Secretary of State to use their powers under the Localism Act to lift restrictions on the protected land, most notably for the Tour de France Grand Depart in 2014.

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However, in a report that went before councillors last night, the council was informed that the Government had warned that it could not continue to dedicate time and resources to grant temporary lifting of the restrictions.

The report by Jennifer Norton, the council's head of Legal and Governance said: "The Government has advised that in order to satisfy the parliamentary committees, who previously reported their concerns about the amount of Parliamentary time taken to consider repeat requests for temporary solutions, a resolution of the council is required to indicate that this is the last occasion on which the council will make such a request."

She added: "It is likely that the UCI event will be the last large-scale event on the Stray in the foreseeable future."

The council was told that given the scale of the UCI race that it was likely the Stray would be needed to be closed off between 10 September to 5 October 2019. The report added that the Stray will be returned to its former condition once the race was over.

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Campaigners to protect the Stray had been concerned that the council would ask for a permanent change to the Stray Act to allow for more large-scale events.

Speaking before the meeting, Coun Stanley Lumley, cabinet member with responsibility for sport, said: “The UCI World Road Championships is a significant event and will contribute thousands of pounds to the economy of the Harrogate district.

“This will be the last time we will make application for a temporary change.

"There are no plans for us to ask for a permanent change to the act.”

A full logistical breakdown on what is needed to host the event has not yet been confirmed by the UCI.

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The UCI championships, which brings together the cream of cycling's road racers, have not been held in Britain since 1982.

The event is principally funded through the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport and UK Sport, and is underwritten by the government to the value of £24 million.

This includes £15 million legacy funding and a further £3 million will be made available through the National Lottery and UK Sport.

It is expected the UCI event will generate significant publicity for Harrogate and region and could contribute £60 to £100m to the local economy.

The race is also proposing to visit Beverley, Doncaster, Leeds, Northallerton, Ripon, and York.