Harrogate council to pursue insurance payout to help heal Stray

An aerial image of The Stray following UCI, commissioned by the Stray Defence Association.
An aerial image of The Stray following UCI, commissioned by the Stray Defence Association.
0
Have your say

Harrogate Borough Council has confirmed it is working with Yorkshire 2019 in a bid to have the cycling championship's insurer help cover the costs of restoring The Stray's West Park.

Harrogate Borough Council has confirmed it is working with Yorkshire 2019 in a bid to have the cycling championship's insurer help cover the costs of restoring The Stray's West Park.

More than a week of continuous rain combined with the UCI fan zone turned a swathe of the famed parkland into a muddy bog, leading to criticism from some corners of the community over the prized asset's treatment.

While further rain this week has delayed the hand back to the borough council, leader Richard Cooper confirmed the authority had been working with Yorkshire 2019 to see if they had "any leverage with their insurers" to help fund recovery work on The Stray.

Coun Cooper said he hoped the volume of rain over the UCI, which ran from September 22-29, would see insurers of the event contribute to costs arising from damage to the park.

"Let's not deny acknowledging the amount of rain we got (during UCI) was extraordinary," he said.

"Hopefully the insurance company will accept it was out of the ordinary."

The council leader said he had been updated daily on the conditions at the ground, which has been compared to a "battlefield" following the cycling championships.

He said the emphasis was now for Yorkshire 2019 to remove the remainder of their equipment while causing minimal additional damage to the park, before it is handed back to the council "within the next few days".

The total cost of restoring the site wouldn't be known until agricultural contractors as well as council staff get access to the site, he added.

Coun Cooper said the authority "held back" on maintenance of the area prior to the event, which included cancelling the planting of flower beds, "because what was the point?" if it was to be underfoot at the fan zone.

It's the last time the Stray Act, which governs and restricts the use of the land, will be suspended to allow events to take place on it.

Coun Cooper also addressed concerns raised by local businesses at a meeting organised by Harrogate District Chamber of Commerce and Harrogate’s Business Improvement District team last week, where many voiced anger over the economic impact of the races and road closures.

He said that if businesses felt they had a "justifiable claim for damages" against Harrogate Borough Council, they could file one; but emphasised that the council's responsibility didn't extend to roads (managed by North Yorkshire County Council) or the event itself (Yorkshire 2019).

North Yorkshire County Council also weighed into the fall-out surrounding the championships, with Coun Don Mackenzie, the county's executive member for access who oversaw the road closures, saying reports of poor trader performance were "very regrettable".

However, Coun Mackenzie said that while "some businesses will have done better than others during these world championships," the council maintained it had given enough prior warning for them to prepare.

"We have received very positive reports from Harrogate and from all the towns and villages where the races took place," Coun Mackenzie said in response to the reports.

"We are also aware of comments from mainly Harrogate town centre traders which indicate poor sales, and that is very regrettable."

The executive member for access, however, said the authority had a duty the district's businesses to showcase the area.

“The business and leisure economy is a very competitive marketplace and it is vital to promote North Yorkshire and its towns as widely as possible, and we believe that this global event will support that effort," he said.

A council statement added that road closures "were widely advertised in advance to help businesses plan" and that "Yorkshire 2019 and the county council worked hard with businesses, schools, residents and health services to mitigate any impact wherever possible".

Lachlan Leeming, Local Democracy Reporter