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MPs say borough council must make permanent change to law governing use of The Stray public parkland in Yorkshire town

A Parliamentary Committee has approved the use of The Stray in Harrogate for the finish area of this year’s UCI Road World Championships – but has warned it would be unlikely to grant similar permission for future events unless the local authority makes a permanent change to the law governing use of the public parkland in the North Yorkshire town.

According to the Harrogate Reporter, currently use of the site – which also hosted the finish of the opening stage of the 2014 Tour de France – is governed by the Harrogate Stray Act 1985.

The legislation restricts use of the site for events to 35 days a year and a maximum of 3.5 hectares per event. By comparison, the football pitch at Wembley Stadium, from touchline to touchline, covers 0.7245 of a hectare.

Harrogate Borough Council held a consultation in 2015 over amending the act, with 53 per cent of those who responded expressing opposition.

Now, the House of Commons has criticised the council for repeatedly using Localism orders to enable events such as the UCI Road World Championships to be held, rather than making a permanent change to the law.

While it approved a draft order in this instance, which will now require approval from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, the committee made clear that it is unlikely to adopt such a lenient stance in future.

Its chair, the Conservative MP for Stevenage, Stephen McPartland, said: “The return of the UCI Road World Championships to the UK for the first time since 1982 is welcome and will cement the reputation of the country and of Yorkshire as a global cycling destination.

“I am pleased that the Committee has been able to recommend to Government that the draft Order to enable Harrogate to host the event should be made.

“However, it is regrettable that Harrogate Borough Council left it so late before seeking a consultation and legislation on this issue, long after preparations had already begun.

“It is only the widespread public support and a track record from previous events that meant the Committee could accept this consultation as meeting the basic standards required.

“In approving the draft Harrogate Stray Act 1985 (UCI Road World Championships) Order 2019, the Committee were concerned about Harrogate Borough Council’s methods of securing Parliamentary approval for the event,” he continued.

“The Council’s repeated use of Localism Orders rather than seeking to permanently change the law was criticised, with any future events currently unlikely to be approved using this procedure.”

Councillor Richard Cooper, leader of Harrogate Borough Council commented: “It is great news that we finally have the permissions in place that are necessary for Harrogate to host the UCI Road World Race Championships.

“It will bring a huge economic boost for our area and I thank the Regulatory Reform Committee for that.

“I don’t agree with all the chairman’s comments but that is to look to the past rather than the future,” he continued.

“The important outcome is that the committee’s decision gives us greater certainty and clarity as we prepare for Harrogate to welcome the world.”

The 11 events comprising this year’s UCI Road World Championships start at various towns and cities across Yorkshire, but all finish in Harrogate.

The event lasts eight days from 22 to 29 September – although the part of The Stray housing the finish zone will be occupied for rather longer due to setting up and dismantling the various facilities before and after the event.

Indeed, the Harrogate Stray Act 1985 (UCI Road World Championships) Order 2019 provides for a period of almost four weeks, with its provisions coming into force at 7am on Monday 9 September and ending at 10pm on Friday 4 October.

Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.