COUNCILS have upped their game ahead of the arrival of the Tour de France – with one agreeing to a planning amnesty on campsites and another pledging nearly £900,000.

As Sports Minister Hugh Robertson visited Yorkshire to hear how plans to host the Grand Depart were progressing, councils announced some of the steps they will take to cater for the thousands of visitors it will bring to the region.

Harrogate Borough Council announced it will relax planning regulations for temporary campsites, caravan parks or car parks.

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People will not have to apply for planning permission as long as the site does not operate for more than 28 days. The amnesty will also cover display advertising linked to the tour.

Nearly 500,000 visitors are expected to arrive in the district and the area currently does not have enough beds to cater for the huge influx.

Councillor Alan Skidmore, cabinet member for Transport, Planning and Economic Development said: “We want to make it easy, not difficult, as we are going to rely on others to help us cope with these numbers.

“In turn we want everyone in the district to get as much as possible from the district hosting the world’s largest annual sporting event.

“We know hotel and guesthouse bedrooms have been filling fast. But we also know that we need much more bed space than they can provide.”

Meanwhile the City of York Council is to consider investing £873,000 in preparations for stage two of the Grand Depart, when it arrives in York.

The council will consider the proposal on October 1.

Several days later, the Tour de France events organisers ASO and its technical teams will arrive in the city to finalise the route and race arrangements.

Hugh Robertson, Minister for Sport and Tourism, today (Tuesday, September 24) visited Leeds, where he met with staff from Welcome to Yorkshire, members of the TDF 2014 board and others involved in delivering the event.

UK Sport and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport came in for criticism recently, after minutes from a meeting revealed it had originally asked tourism agency Visit England to take over the marketing of the event and promote it as an “England” Grand Depart.

Speaking today (Tuesday, September 24), the minister said: “The Tour de France is the most famous cycle race in the world and with Yorkshire hosting the Grand Départ next year it is a fantastic opportunity for the county to sell itself to an international audience as a great tourist destination.

"All the key partners are working hard to make sure we deliver a world class event, encourage even greater participation in cycling and give a boost to businesses across the region.”