Harrogate Council hits back in battle of flower beds and says it was anything but 'vandalism'

Harrogate Borough Council has categorically denied claims it “vandalised”  a town centre flower bed planted by Extinction Rebellion - and said the exact opposite is true.

By Graham Chalmers
Friday, 5th August 2022, 4:05 pm
Updated Friday, 5th August 2022, 4:07 pm

Coun Richard Cooper said he was surprised and baffled by claims made by Harrogate Green Party in the letters section of last week’s Harrogate Advertiser.

“I was surprised at these claims because I live and work in the town centre and so have seen what many lately have called ‘the dead bed’ nearly every day since it was planted,” said the

A photo of the Cambridge Street planter before and after Harrogate Borough Council stepped in. (Photo courtesy of Harrogate Borough Council)

council leader.

“In fact, before the replanting the bed was full of dying plants unable to get water because the roots of the tree in the same bed sucked all the moisture out of

the soil. ”

The planter on Cambridge Street was unilaterally planted in 2021 by Extinction Rebellion Harrogate as a protest against Harrogate Borough Council’s use of

plastic grass.

In last week’s letter, Shan Oakes, spokesperson for Harrogate and District Green Party and a councillor on Knaresborough Town Council, claimed the flower bed planted by Harrogate XR in one of the planters on Cambridge Street was “going strong” with “minimal maintenance” and had a “hugely diverse range of hardy wildlife-friendly plants”.

But Coun Cooper said the evidence was the opposite and the council’s gardeners had been forced to rescue the flower bed.

“We have been accused of ‘vandalism’ when we replaced the Extinction Rebellion-planted flower bed with a new one.

“But the facts are, because the planter looked so scruffy,it was a magnet for litter and cigarette butts.

“Our professional horticulturalists have now put down a membrane to protect the tree roots and raised the bed and put in more soil to enable the moisture to be retained for the flowers.

“Let’s not pretend that what they replaced that grass with was a haven of bio-diversity. It really wasn’t.”

The controversy over the planters in Harrogate town centre initially blew up back in May 2021 when bright green artificial grass was placed over tree roots in the raised

flower beds.

The furore was not restricted to just green campaigners, the issue attracted wide comment from across the Harrogate community.