Fears for wildlife 'oasis' behind Aldi in Harrogate

The scenic views in Grange Park. Picture: Adrian Murray
The scenic views in Grange Park. Picture: Adrian Murray

Conservationists have raised concern for an unprotected ‘oasis’ of wildlife on the edge of Harrogate.

The Bilton Conservation Group (BCG) will be putting together a case to give a pocket park in Jennyfields ‘local green space’ status, ready for consultations on the town’s local plan.

Bilton Conservation Group are concerned for this beautiful little pocket park which is said to have vast wildlife. Picture: Keith Wilkinson

Bilton Conservation Group are concerned for this beautiful little pocket park which is said to have vast wildlife. Picture: Keith Wilkinson

The area of land just behind the new Aldi store has been dubbed Grange Park and forms part of Nidd Gorge, but at present it is unprotected land owned by Harrogate Borough Council (HBC).

Keith Wilkinson of BCG said: “It does get quite a bit of attention it’s very popular with walkers because it’s on a lot of people’s doorsteps and it’s essentially wild.”

Mr Wilkinson explains that the wildlife in the park is vast, with kingfisher, otter, roe deer, badger, sparrowhawk, and various typed of orchids.

As such, between 1999 and early 2000 the BCG made a case to give Grange Park ‘Local Nature Reserve’ status but their case was rebuffed.

Mr Wilkinson said: “For a local spot of land on the edge of town the wildlife is really quite good, but the piece of land was too small for them for them to be really concerned about it.”

Now though, the BCG are concerned for Grange Park and its close proximity to the industrial estate where Aldi recently opened.

Mr Wilkinson added: “It is being said that Aldi’s car parking space is so inadequate that it is approaching HBC to acquire some of their land over the fence.

“Knowing the financial constraints they are facing I fear there will be a great temptation for them to sell off a sizeable tract of this plot.”

In a statement Aldi stated they ‘do not have any plans to extend parking at the site’.

But now the BCG are making a new case, to create some form of protection over the land.

“We would hope that the next best thing would be to get it designated in the forthcoming local plan as a local green space (LGS), we’re thinking that might be more achievable because it wouldn’t cost the council a great deal at all. It wouldn’t have a force of law but there would be a chairman for it.”

Councillor Rebecca Burnett, HBC Cabinet Member for Planning said: “A review of the site was undertaken in 2014 which confirmed that the land was ‘surplus to requirements’ from an operational point of view.

“At the same time, officers were given authority to investigate the development potential of the site. This work is still on going and no decision has yet been made concerning its future use, or indeed whether the site will be sold.

Coun Burnett said that any future planning applications for the site would be dealt with in the ‘normal way’.