Pinewood trees controversy latest as new ecology report is released

A Harrogate conservation charity has finally seen the new ecology report into Harrogate Spring Water's expansion plans in a week which has seen the firm announce it had secured more land for planting trees.
Rotary Wood near the Pinewoods in Harrogate.Rotary Wood near the Pinewoods in Harrogate.
Rotary Wood near the Pinewoods in Harrogate.

Neil Hind, chairperson of Pinewoods Conservation Group, said: "Although later than expected we are now pleased to be in receipt from the updated Ecological Report.

"This will take some time to review so we are pleased that Harrogate Council has agreed to extend the deadline for comments for a further week until Monday 16th March. We encourage those with an interest to take time to review and feedback any thoughts.”

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The UK’s number one premium water brand, Harrogate Spring Water first obtained outline planning permission for the expansion of its bottling facility on Harlow Moor Road in 2017.

Since then, it says, it has carried out further technical and viability studies highlighting the opportunity to maximise the available footprint for development, while maintaining community space in this section of the Pinewoods.

Its revised plans submitted last year seek to increase the size of the developable area by 42% in principle, while maintaining nearly half the total space for public access.

Although trees would be lost at Rotary Wood, the company has pledged to replace them all.

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Proud of being a "good neighbour", Harrogate Spring Water has reached out to local groups several times during the planning process.

This week it announced it has sourced more land to enable it to plant new trees.

Harrogate Spring Water brand manager Nicky Cain said: "We have now received the ecology report and performed the biodiversity accounting exercise.

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"The assessment demonstrates that based on the proposed development, there is currently a small net loss in biodiversity of 6.45%.

"As a business we are committed to ensuring that our project results in a net positive impact and gain in biodiversity.

"Our priority in the first instance, is to do so on-site, as part of the landscaping exercise and with completion of the detailed design.

"In addition, we can now confirm that we are also in advanced discussions with a nearby landowner regarding a parcel of land to be utilised for any additional mitigation. The land enable 2 for 1 tree planting where required and shall provide an enhanced habitat for biodiversity improvements.

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"We have continued to engage with local groups such as Pinewoods and Rotary and have listened and acted on their concerns. We have also reached out to the Green Party, inviting them to learn more about our plans and our commitment to bringing not only economic benefits to the town, but also to ensuring that our project results in a net positive environmental impact and gain in biodiversity."

After being invited to talks by Harrogate Spring Water on January 22, PCG agreed to pause any recommendation to its supporters to allow for the firm to provide additional information around the environmental impact of the plans and confirm details of replacement land for trees.

Two weeks ago, the PCG wrote to its members asking them to formally object to the planning application, partly because it had not yet seen the updated ecological study of the plans.

But today, Tuesday, it received copies of the new HSW Ecological Report with a new deadline to study them of March 16 set by Harrogate Borough Council.

The council’s full planning committee will decide on the plans on March 31.