Relaxed rural rules for the Grand Depart

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A TEMPORARY relaxation of land management rules are paving the way for farmers and landowners to make the most of the financial benefits of the Grand Depart coming to Yorkshire next summer.

Natural England has produced a factsheet for farmers and landowners signed up to binding environmental stewardship schemes to explain how they can apply for special derogations when the Tour de France’s opening stage is hosted in the region on July 5-6.

The first day of the event will see cyclists and the race’s lengthy cavalcade pass through many parts of the Dales as it works its way from Leeds to Harrogate in a large circular route via Hawes and Muker.

Day two begins in York at the start of a route that takes in Sheffield via Keighley and Huddersfield.

The Country Land and Business Association has worked with Natural England to introduce a series of measures aimed at easing stewardship restrictions. Landowners and farmers can apply for permission to set up temporary facilities such as campsites, car parks and lavatories as well as adjust land management regimes, such as grass cutting dates, to allow more flexibility.

Dorothy Fairburn, the CLA’s regional director for the North, said: “The Grand Depart coming to Yorkshire is a once in a generation opportunity for farmers and landowners. Huge numbers of people will be visiting the region to watch the race and they will be looking for places to stay and for things to do away from the event.

“By easing the restrictions on those who operate land under strict stewardship schemes, no one will be excluded from the opportunities that the event presents and we expect Natural England to receive a significant volume of applications for derogations during the race.

“The key is for farmers and landowners to start planning ahead for the event now so that they can maximise the benefits.”

Gary Verity, chief executive of the region’s tourism body Welcome to Yorkshire, is keen for the benefits of the race to spread to rural businesses.

Mr Verity said: “Many accommodation providers have already been in touch to say they are fully booked or seen a spike in bookings and enquiries and we are still nine months away, which is promising news.

“We want everyone to maximise the benefits of this, the world’s largest annual sporting event, coming to our county and we would encourage landowners to work closely with their local authorities and organisations like Natural England regarding guidance surrounding land use so they too can benefit from the visit of Le Tour.”

Pippa Merricks, an adviser with Natural England’s Yorkshire Dales Land Management Team, said: “We have not received as many enquiries as we expected from farmers and landowners so far and that may well be because they are not sure what they plan to do or how they should go about it.

“The sooner people talk to us about their plans the better. We will do our best to steer them through the process of obtaining any permissions or derogations required.”

Where to turn for advice

Natural England can offer advice ahead of the Grand Depart to farmers and landowners tied to environmental schemes.

Consent may be needed if land is near to or is designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest. Other permissions may be needed if land is part of an Entry Level, Higher Level or Countryside Stewardship agreement, depending on the scheme options on the land concerned.

To discuss a proposal, call your local Natural England adviser or 0845 600 3078, quoting your agreement number.