RESIDENTS living near a historic York stray that could become a huge Tour de France campsite and spectator hub have aired their concerns at a public meeting.
About 150 people packed into Heworth Cricket Club following the news that City of York Council plans to use Monk Stray as a base for caravans, motorhomes and campers when the opening stage of the race, Le Grand Depart, comes to the city in July.
The authority has applied for a permanent licence for the land, allowing alcohol to be sold and music to be played until 11pm on the Tour weekend, although it has said there are no other plans for events on the stray. Bookings covering a nine-day period have already been invited on York’s Tour de France website, leading to claims the community was not consulted first and that the campsite and spectator centre will operate for longer than necessary.
Two sets of proposals were outlined at the meeting, with the northern section of the stray intended to be used as a campsite and the southern section becoming a base for Tour audiences. Heworth Without councillor Nigel Ayre said residents felt a licence covering the two days when the Tour comes to Yorkshire would be sufficient, but officials had said the stray was advertised “just to test demand” and it would be only be used as a campsite if other sites exceeded their capacity.
Coun Ayre said: “It’s disappointing that the council failed to consult residents before implementing these plans, but council officials have taken on board people’s views and hopefully changes will be made.”
Gill Cooper, the council’s head of culture and tourism, said councillors were briefed about York’s Tour preparations in early January. She said: “It was good to see the community interest from Heworth residents. The number of participants expected necessitates applying for a permanent, rather than a temporary licence and I will, of course, take residents’ views on this to the licensing panel.”
Coun Sonja Crisp, cabinet member for leisure, culture and tourism, said public meetings would be held in each of the four areas where spectator hubs may be set up– with the others understood to be Rowntree Park, York Designer Outlet and Bustardthorpe – to “properly inform residents and hear their views first-hand”. The first meeting will look at Monk Stray’s potential use and will be on March 12, at a venue and time to be announced.
Lesley Pratt, who lives next to the stray, said: “There has been an awful lot of confusion and it needs to be spelt out to everybody exactly what the council wants to do and for how long, because we just want reassurance – we now know where the campsite will be and where the entertainment will be, but we would all like to see some plans on paper.”
Heworth Green resident Craig Barratt said events on Monk Stray, including the Tour de France plans, could help bring the local community together as long as a balance was struck to keep local green spaces available for other use.