HARROGATE-based Stray FM has changed its name and brought in celebrity presenters to host shows as part of major changes to local radio across the UK.

From September 1, ‘Greatest Hits Radio Harrogate & The Dales’ is broadcasting on FM across Skipton and Ilkley.

Popular local presenters have been replaced by national names such as Mark Goodier, Andy Crane, Pat Sharp and Simon Mayo, who are hosting shows from London or Manchester. Owner Bauer Media says there will still be some local news and information broadcast on what is now the ‘UK’s largest commercial radio network’.

Nick Babb, who was the last voice on Fresh Radio in January 2012 before its sale to Stray FM,. He is one of the founders of a new digital service - Rombalds Radio - aimed at people across Skipton, Keighley and Ilkley. His business partner is Stuart Clarkson, who also presented shows on Yorkshire Dales Radio,

Stuart and Nick have put together the new digital-only station, which launched on August 10, and brought in popular local presenters including Nick Bewes (Fresh Radio), Alex Cann (Stray FM), Elisa Hilton (The Pulse, Real Radio Yorkshire), Jeremy Gartland (Fresh Radio & Stray FM), Glenn Pinder (Stray FM & Radio Aire) and Tim Steere (BBC Radio Leeds).

Rombalds Radio is available via its own free app, smart speakers and at rombaldsradio.com. It hopes to be available on DAB digital radio in the future when a new ‘multiplex’ is created for the Skipton, Keighley and Ilkley areas.

Stuart said: “We’ve been blown away by the support from local listeners and advertisers over the last three weeks and are looking forward to welcoming more people to try us out as these changes kick in. We play great music from across the decades and our experienced friendly presenters chat about things going on round here that you might want to know about.”

Nick added: “I’ve lived in Ilkley for more than 40 years and Stuart is a Silsden lad born and bred who went to school in Skipton - so we know this area incredibly well. We’re delighted to bring local radio back to listeners here - download our app for your phone or tablet today and tune in!”

Dee Ford CBE, Group Managing Director Radio of Bauer Radio, said: “We’re so pleased to be officially bringing the all-new Greatest Hits Radio Network to air today. It will be a major part of the UK’s biggest commercial radio network – offering the most popular music format in UK radio brought to life by the most loved and trusted broadcasters. Listeners from all corners of our nation will benefit from the local news and information they value and from having local teams support on-air and off-air initiatives. Advertisers, both locally and nationally, will be able to access deeply engaged audiences on all broadcast platforms.”

The move follows a change in the rules on ‘localness’ for commercial radio in 2018 by the media regulator Ofcom. Stations are now only required to have 3 hours a day on FM local radio services that is presented from the region where it broadcasts. Listeners to the former Stray FM service will hear a 3-hour regional drivetime programme from studios in Leeds, which will be shared across stations in Scarborough, Bridlington, York, Harrogate, Leeds, Bradford, Wakefield, Barnsley, Doncaster, Rotherham, Sheffield, Chesterfield, Hull and Grimsby.

Stray FM’s former owner, UKRD Group, took over the broadcast licences for Skipton and Ilkley in 2012 and merged programmes with ones from Harrogate. The station had previously been called Fresh Radio, having launched in Skipton in May 1997 as Yorkshire Dales Radio.