In a survey of members conducted by Harrogate District Chamber of Commerce, shop and restaurant owners in these two sectors were more supportive than others of the suggestion of increasing the number of days on which events can take place from the current 35 per year. Several respondents said their businesses had felt a direct benefit from events held on the Stray, such as Harrogate Christmas Market, and that additional events with a high profile would help them further.
However, responses to the survey also showed continuing misunderstanding over what is being proposed and the potential impact of not amending the Stray Act.
Chamber chief executive Sandra Doherty said: "Harrogate Borough Council is currently consulting on whether to amend the Stray Act to increase slightly the number of permitted events and to allow some which are larger than the currently-permitted maximum of 3.5 hectare.
“The chamber's survey of its members indicates the majority are in favour but also that there is some misconception about the proposals. Some members voiced opposition to year-round events, allowing the Stray to be used for housing, or taking up the whole Stray and preventing public access – none of which is being proposed.
“If larger events are permitted, the chamber would like to see careful management of any related road closures and parking.”
Harrogate District Chamber is now calling on business owners to find out the facts and give their responses to the official consultation at www.harrogate.gov.uk (click on ‘have your say’), before the February 6 deadline.
The chamber's town centre focus group leader, Mike Procter, added: "Hosting of events larger than 3.5 hectares such as such as Tour de France required Parliamentary approval.
“Westminster has told Harrogate Council that this will not be possible in future due to cost and time. Therefore without an amendment to the Stray Act, we will see a reduction in current activity. An amended Act would see a small increase in activity.
“There is no option which allows for the current activity level to continue. Our town centre economy is very dependent on visitors, so occasional events which have an internationally high profile are good for Harrogate.
“It's a tricky balancing act, so it's vitally important that everyone, including businesses, find out the facts and give a considered response, to allow the council to act in the best interests of all Harrogate.”