Hosting the Tour de France stage 1 finish in Harrogate next year is probably one of the biggest opportunities ever afforded to the town. But like all big events it does come with some challenges.
One of the attractions for the ASO – the owners of the Tour de France – in choosing Harrogate for the stage 1 finish, was the ability to have an uphill sprint finish (Parliament Street); that could be seen by large crowds; and a large piece of open space (The Stray) – that can be used for spectator hubs. They also have to have space for the support vehicles needed to deliver the event that must be located at the finish line which will be near to the Hotel du Vin.
The Tour de France visiting Harrogate is a unique event and understandably the Stray Act was not drafted with it in mind. The application of certain sections of the Act to the Tour is therefore not clear.
In order to avoid any uncertainty, Harrogate Borough Council has approached the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government to apply for the temporary relaxation of some of sections of the Stray Act for the limited areas needed for the Tour de France and for the period only from 23 June to 8 July 2014.
Jennifer Norton, Chief Solicitor, is leading on this for the council which manages the land on behalf of the Duchy of Lancaster.
We have already spoken to the Duchy to seek their thoughts and they are supportive of our approach. The Act imposes a number of restrictions as to what activities can take place on the Stray. New rules under the recent Localism legislation, give us the opportunity to ask for this relaxation. This is under the *‘general power of competence’.
The council is keen to stress that as custodians of the Stray, working with highly respected organisations such as the Stray Defence Association, the land will be well looked after and will be fully reinstated (if necessary) after the Tour has taken place.
The Secretary of State is now consulting on the proposal to relax relevant sections of the Stray Act and the consultation documents are available at www.gov.uk/government/consultations/harrogate-borough-council-general-power-of-competence or can be viewed at the Council Offices, Crescent Gardens, Harrogate.
As well as directly inviting comments from a number of statutory bodies, the government will also welcome comments from members of the public, local businesses, groups and societies.
Responses must be received 7 January 2014.