In just a fortnight, the first leg of the world’s most prestigious cycling event will now come to an exciting climax on Harrogate Stray and work can begin next week to lay the preparations.
Local Government Secretary, Eric Pickles, intervened at the request of Harrogate Borough Council to facilitate it hosting the event.
Part of the open grassland in Harrogate, known as the Stray, needs to be sectioned off to make way for sporting infrastructure. But this contravened ancient laws that date back to as far as 1770.
A special new power granted to councils – known as the general power of competence – has been used by Harrogate. The Secretary of State praised this innovative use of the power and stepped in to lay an order before Parliament to support it. It will also require the land to be fully returned to normal afterwards.
Eric Pickles, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, said:
As a proud Yorkshireman, I couldn’t be more delighted to welcome Le Grand Départ of the Tour de France to God’s Own County. The government has done its bit to help Harrogate bring the world’s greatest cycle race to these shores.
This will bring lasting benefits to Harrogate and using this localism power for the first time ever will ensure the event is a success and the land is looked after and returned to its original state afterwards.
Councillor Richard Cooper, Leader of Harrogate Borough Council, said:
The Tour de France coming to the Harrogate district is a once-in-a-generation opportunity and excitement is mounting daily.
We are grateful for the support shown by the government and local MPs to help make this a reality and for allowing us to make the most of the economic benefits it will bring, not just to Yorkshire but to the country as a whole.
It just shows that local people working with the council and in partnership with government can do things for the good of our local area that alone we could not achieve.
In order to host the tour Harrogate Borough Council intended to use some of the area of land known as the Stray. The Stray is owned by the Duchy of Lancaster but managed by Harrogate Borough Council. Its use and management has been regulated since 1770 by a succession of private acts, the current being the 1985 Act.
Harrogate Borough Council anticipated it would need to section off 19.5 hectares of the 80 hectare Stray for a maximum of 16 days, and that it would be occupied by temporary infrastructure to support those running the Tour and the thousands of spectators who will come to watch it.
The council will ensure the Stray is returned to its original state very shortly after the event.
Harrogate Borough Council presented to government a compelling case for using the general power of competence to host the Tour de France: the general power of competence is a broad power and the economic merits of hosting the Tour de France are significant. The general power of competence applies in these circumstances as an individual with full capacity would have the power to host a cycle race on someone else’s land, subject to complying with an applicable legal restrictions and obtaining the landowner’s consent.
Following consultation and consideration of the statutory conditions, the Secretary of State has decided that several parts of the 1985 Act do prevent or restrict Harrogate Borough Council from exercising the general power of competence in hosting the Tour de France, and it was appropriate for him to use the 2011 Localism Act to lay before Parliament an Order to disapply or amend parts of the 1985 Act, for the period of 23 June to 8 July 2014, for the sole purpose of hosting the Tour de France. Parliament agreed that this is an appropriate use of the Secretary of State’s powers, and on 8 May the Secretary of State used these Localism Act powers for the first time to sign and make The Harrogate Stray Act (Tour de France) Order 2014.