First these notices appeared
Tied to every lamppost around Monk Stray in Heworth, they arrived in the middle of last week announcing City of York Council’s application for a licence to serve alcohol on Monk Stray.
The notice gave a council web link for objecting to the licence. It led to a “Page not found” message on the council’s website.
**UPDATE: The link has now been restored, thanks to Richard at the council – see comments below.**
When rumours previously surfaced about licensing Monk Stray three years ago, one Heworth letter writer expressed fears that “our new council is looking to make money out of anything that the city owns to the detriment of its residents”.
At the time the council specifically ruled out licensing the stray.
A search for more details of the new licence application led us to the e-licensing site which gave nothing more than the licence number: no supporting documents.
So we asked the council what it was all about.
The reason revealed
While YorkMix was still awaiting a council response, the reason for the licensing application was revealed in the Press.
It was to allow beer to be sold on Monk Stray as part of plans to turn it into a campsite / “spectator hub” for visitors to the Tour de France, complete with tents, caravans and motorhomes.
‘Lack of consultation’ condemned
The Lib Dem councillor for Heworth Without Nigel Ayre issued a statement criticising the Labour-led council.
“Monk Stray is a well-loved open space that is hugely valued by local residents,” he wrote.
“It is therefore shocking that there was no public consultation on these plans or any discussion with myself as the ward councillor.”
Cllr Ayre has lodged a Freedom Of Information request with York council about the use of the stray as a caravan site.
He has organised a public meeting about the plans for Thursday, February 13, at 7pm at Heworth Cricket Club.
So what is planned?
According to the website the council has set up to promote the Tour de France coming to York in July, Monk Stray is “is our largest campsite and spectator hub. Ideal for caravans, motorhomes and towing caravans as well as tents.
“The site will feature live entertainment, big screen, stalls, beer tent* as well as all the facilities you need such as water, electric hookups, toilets and showers.
“This is our long stay site, so if you want to make a holiday of it, book today and stay for up to 9 nights.”
The * next to beer tent refers to a this clarification: “Subject to licensing. All features & facilities subject to availability.”
You can already book your pitch on Monk Stray direct on the website. A two-man tent for one night costs £20; a caravan for the maximum of nine nights – between Saturday, June 28 and Sunday, July 6 – is £279.
The licence application (PDF) is asking for on and off sales of alcohol from noon till 10pm, Monday to Thursday, and from noon till 11pm, Friday through Sunday.
It also applies for permission to play live music on the stray between noon and 11pm, Friday to Monday, and noon to 10pm, Tuesday to Thursday.
‘A proposal only’
The council came back to us with a statement from Gill Cooper, head of culture, tourism and city centre. “The spectator hub proposal is about having a family-friendly area with big screens to watch the TDF race as it progresses on its way to Sheffield,” she said.
“To accommodate the expected numbers of residents and visitors we have applied for a licence for the use of the stray area.
“At the moment the spectator hub sites have not all been finalised, and this is a proposal only.
“We’re currently testing demand for camping through our website. As any campsites will run for less that 28 days we will not require licensing for it.
“However, we have five months to finalise plans and we will be talking to residents local to Monk Stray this week.”
More questions and answers
We’d asked the council some more questions about the proposal. Lesley Cooke, City of York Council’s licensing manager, answered them for us.
What timeframe does the licence application cover?
“The applicant has not requested a limited timeframe for the licence: restrictions can be discussed at the licensing sub-committee hearing.”
Do the police support the application?
“The police are aware of the proposal as part of the preparations for the TDF and can comment through the licensing process.”
Does it contradict city policy, eg the bylaw prohibiting drinking in Museum Gardens?
“Monk Stray is not covered by a Designated Public Place Order (Alcohol Restriction Zone (ARZ)). The requirements of an ARZ does not cover premises or land that are covered by a licensed premises.
“People can consume alcohol in an ARZ unless they are asked not to by the police.”
How can people respond?
“It is a legal requirement of the Licensing Act for the applicant to display notices on the premises (the stray) and place a notice in the local press. In addition, a meeting is being held with local residents on Thursday.
“Representation to the application must be made in writing to either [email protected] or to Licensing Services, City of York Council, Eco Depot, James Street, York YO10 3DS, before 25 February 2014.”