Fears of damage to protected land if Le Tour is hit by downpour

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THE custodian of a green swathe of common land at the heart of a Yorkshire town is under pressure to protect it from an invasion of trucks, portable toilets and temporary accommodation.

Harrogate’s 200 acres of open common, known as The Stray, looks set to be used as a base for the end of stage one of the Tour de France Grand Depart on July 5.

But because the land has special protection under the Harrogate Stray Act of 1985, Harrogate Council had to apply for special powers for the Act to be temporarily suspended. Communities Secretary Eric Pickles is set to make a decision on the application next month.

Objectors have complained that suspending the Act will set a dangerous precedent and others fear long-term damage to the land. Of 14 responses to consultation, five people have raised concerns.

Three residents have told Mr Pickles and the council that it could take a long time to reinstate the land, particularly if it rains a lot on the big day.

Papers relating to the council’s application revealed the event will need 48 acres to fit in 130 trucks, living accommodation for technicians, two grandstands, a large screen, 300 toilets, catering facilities, temporary roads, car parks, an assembly point for 180 advertising vehicles and a helicopter landing area.

Jude d’Arcy Thompson, of the Stray Defence Association, has sought reassurances that the land is quickly reinstated. The council has committed itself to this.

* The Yorkshire Festival, the cultural countdown to the arrival of Le Tour, wowed crowds in Dewsbury on Saturday with an aerial cycling spectacle which re-told the story of two of Italy’s greatest cyclists.