Controversial Harrogate Spring Water plans to go back to council planning committee

Harrogate Borough Council is to review a planning application for a smaller extension of Harrogate Spring Water.

Thursday, 4th March 2021, 11:50 am
Updated Friday, 12th March 2021, 5:28 pm
Harrogate Spring Water's operation seen from above.

The decision, to be taken at full council planning committee level at an as yet unconfirmed date, will involve only five elements of reserved matters itemised when the council gave the company planning permission in 2017 for its original smaller expansion plans to meet business needs.

These are access, appearance, landscaping, layout and scale.

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Whateever happens, Harrogate Borough Council as landowners of part of the site, would need to be involved in the sale of land to Harrogate Spring Water.

Although councillors will not be able to reject the plan overall when making their decision, they will be able to object to details in those five aspects of Harrogate Spring Water's proposals which would impact on community woodland near the Pinewoods.

Outline planning permission was first granted by Harrogate Borough Council's committee in 2017 while full plans were being developed which which would involve the partial loss of trees and public access at Rotary Woods.

This permission cannot be revisited.

The latest twist in the nearly four-year saga, follows a meeting in autumn 2020 on the company's ecological mitigation plans with planning consultants from Danone, who bought a majority stake in the UK's oldest bottled water company in February, when it was agreed to delay the planning application meeting at Harrogate Borough Council on the expansion plans until the start of 2021.

Harrogate Spring Water had hoped to win the vote for a revised, larger expansion into Rotary Woods near its bottling plant on Harlow Moor Road.

Although recommended for approval by planners at the council, councillors themselves rejected the new version of Harrogate Spring Water's proposals at a heated meeting in January of this year.

A Harrogate Borough Council spokesman told the Harrogate Advertiser this week: “Outline planning permission (16/05254/OUTMAJ) still exists. This permission, granted in 2017, means that the principle of expansion on to Rotary Wood has already been agreed and cannot be revisited.

“The application (20/01539/REMMAJ) in question is for reserved matters only (namely access, appearance, landscaping, layout and scale) and will be considered by the planning committee in due course.

“When the committee consider this application they will only be able to take in to account these five elements of reserved matters.

"A date for this committee decision has not yet been confirmed.

“A separate decision by the council as landowner, regarding any potential disposal of the site and the status of the site as an Asset of Community Value, would still be required should application 20/01539/REMMAJ be approved.”

Rotary Wood was planted by local children 15 years ago and has since become a battleground in the dispute between Harrogate Spring Water, residents groups and green campaigners including TV presenter Julia Bradbury.

Pinewoods Conservation Group, whose members oppose the company's plans, claims that the conditions stated when outline planning permission was granted in 2017 have not been met and argues the planning committee will have no option but to not approve in its current form.

A spokesperson for the Pinewoods Conservation Group said: “It is clear that on review of the full planning application for the original extension that the strict conditions applied by the planning committee have not been met.

"There is no offer of any compensatory land that is a massive backwards step from the previous rejected application.

"If approved this would result in a massive ecological loss for Harrogate and The Pinewoods. In fact, these original plans could be seen as worse than those recently rejected.

"As such we are encouraging our members and supporters to formally object to this application as soon as possible.”

Harrogate Spring Water claims the expansion is vital to allow it to meet demand and increase jobs.

The company also claims it will replace the lost trees at a rate of two to one at a nearby site to its bottling plant.

Rob Pickering, a senior spokesperson for Harrogate Spring Water, said last week: "As a considered business, we remain focused on reviewing all options and undertaking the necessary actions required, in order to determine the best steps forward (for everyone concerned).

"We continue to be committed to maintaining productive working relationships with our stakeholders and can provide assurance that we will re-engage in the consultation process as soon as we have an update on our position.

"We recognise that there is not a statutory deadline for our existing application to be determined, and as such, we have not yet set any timeline. It remains our priority to ensure an agreeable outcome and in doing so, we shall take the appropriate time and measures required to inform our decision-making."

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