Harrogate’s MP, Andrew Jones, has weighed into the debate on whether the Stray should be officially designated as common land. Mr Jones’s comments follow an application by the Open Spaces Society to designate Harrogate’s cherished 200-acre Stray; a move which has been met with a mixture of puzzlement and outright opposition.
The Harrogate Informer has approached the Open Spaces Society, and they are yet to comment.
Following the submission of the application the MP wrote to the General Secretary of the Open Spaces Society seeking more information.
Andrew, who lives a short distance from the Stray, commented:
Reading it carefully it was still difficult to see why the Open Spaces Society had made this application. I was unclear what it would achieve and why this designation was needed when we already have law – the Stray Act – giving the area protection.
The Stray Act has served us well. It limits large scale use of the land, changes can only be made after Parliamentary scrutiny and where the Stray is damaged it has to be restored by law.
When the Common Land Act of 1965 was passed the Stray was exempted from being included as common land. The Open Spaces Society, in correspondence with Andrew, said: ‘In the society’s view, the exemption of commons from registration under the 1965 Act was misguided’ and continued ‘The society’s policy is to apply to register as common land all exempted land’.
In the response from the Open Spaces Society I could still see no positive reason to progress this application. They may think that the exemption in 1965 was misguided and they may have some blanket policy they are implementing from their Henley-on-Thames HQ. But the important thing is to ensure the Stray is protected rather than ticking some policy box.
The Stray Act is very powerful protection. That will not change so the question remains about the purpose of this new common land application. I simply haven’t yet been given any meaningful reasons by the Open Spaces Society to support their proposal.
Many have criticised the Open Spaces Society for their lack of contact with the local community before they submitted the application. In their letter to Mr Jones the Open Spaces Society say: ‘There is no requirement on the society to engage with local people’.
The first I knew of the application was when I read about it in the media. Since an Act of Parliament protects the Stray I would really have expected to be asked my view. The same goes for local councillors – the council maintains the Stray yet local councillors did not seem to be included in pre-application discussions. It is an odd and worrying way to seek changes to this much-loved asset.
Anyone wishing to read the application by the Open Spaces Society can do so at https://www.northyorks.gov.uk/environment-and-neighbourhoods/land-and-waterways/common-land-and-village-greens/common-land-applications-and-decision-notices.
People have until 26 July 2023 to register comments.
In writing to the Commons Registration Officer, Commons Registration, North Yorkshire Council, County Hall, Northallerton, DL7 8AD