The Stray in Harrogate slammed as 'an environmental disaster' as repair battle continues
The Stray was described as looking like 'the Somme' in the aftermath of the UCI World Road Championships last September, when the cycling event was hit by torrential rain. The grass was destroyed and the fan zone had to close early due to poor ground conditions.
A wet winter and the impact of Storm Ciara and Storm Dennis in February has further delayed the Stray's recovery.
The organisers of the championships, Yorkshire 2019, only handed back possession of the Stray to the council in November as the land had been left in such a poor state. The council then revealed they were pursuing an insurance claim against Yorkshire 2019 and that they expected repairs to cost more than £20,000.
Many areas remain fenced off and mud-churned, and Harrogate Council confirmed they had declined the opportunity to be a Tour de Yorkshire 2020 host town as they felt they needed 'a rest' from major events.
Some works have been delayed over fears that bringing heavy plant machinery onto West Park could cause further damage.
Judy D'Arcy Thompson from the Stray Defence Association has even written to the government for assurances that large-scale public events will not be held on the Stray again.
"There is a long way to go before the Stray is restored. My sympathy is with the council employees who are working flat out and who are doing their very best. It will take a great deal of work and finance to sort out.
"It was left in an appalling state and there is a long road ahead. The weather hasn't helped, but West Park hasn't been particularly badly affected by the storms. It has survived for centuries and faced worse weather than this, but this has never occurred before. It is caused by the hand of man.
"The precautions didn't work and feasibility studies and assessments clearly weren't done. The Stray has coped with snow before, but has never had this sort of damage. The Oatlands Stray is fine - it's not a quagmire.
"In November the Department for Communities, Housing and Local Government wrote to me and told me they would not allow any more large-scale public events on the Stray. Everybody has been appalled - the Stray is very important to the people of Harrogate. It's an environmental disaster right in the middle of the town.
"We have 200 acres that can soak up rain, but within two months a large proportion of it was decimated."
A council spokesperson said: “We are currently scheduling works to begin repairs on the West Park area of the Stray imminently. This will start with drainage works to the corner of Otley Road and West Park, followed by wider re-seeding work in the spring (weather depending). Come the summer, once the grass begins to grow, the West Park Stray will look much better. We are all keen to see the West Park Stray restored and looking beautiful again.
“Despite the persistent record-breaking rain, and numerous storms we’ve had recently, crocuses and daffodils are coming through all around the West Park, Otley Road and along Beech Grove. The other areas of the Stray look as glorious as they do every year.”
"As of February, we have:-
- Repaired all the damage to verges along Beech Grove, York Place and West Park
- Restored all bedding areas along West Park
- Repaired and re-opened the footpath along West Park from the Prince of Wales roundabout to the top Montpellier Hill
- Removed the Heras fencing
- Made temporary repairs to the footpaths that cross the Stray
- Opened all footpaths
- Installed netting around areas where the ground is waterlogged and/or unsafe