Harrogate shows its community spirit as Long Lands Common holds its first open day after successful £400,000 campaign

Community spirit has driven the Long Lands Common campaign in Harrogate from the beginning and it was on display again at its first-ever open day.

Friday, 30th July 2021, 3:49 pm
Updated Friday, 30th July 2021, 3:50 pm
Long Lands Commons in Harrogate - Seven-year-old Avery Hamilton planting the first tree - a Scots Pine sappling. (Picture Gerard Binks)

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Hundreds of people gathered in the hay fields between Harrogate and Knaresborough on a sunny Saturday to see what their support had delivered after responding to a community share-holding campaign that raised nearly £400,000 in less than six months.

Despite the impact of self-isolation on a few of its members, the leading members of Long Lands Common’s Community Benefits Society opened up to the assembled crowd from a large grassy mound about future plans for the 30 acres of green belt land freshly purchased near Nidd Gorge.

Members of the Long Lands Common board at the open day and AGM in Harrogate. (Picture Gerard Binks)

Secretary Chris Kitson said the unpaid volunteers were hugely grateful for everyone’s support for a project which was, in essence, an offshoot of the lengthy campaign against the threat of a Nidd Gorge Relief Road.

Mr Kitson said: “Over the last five years of campaigning and organising, we have demonstrated what is possible when the community pulls together.

“This is the people of Harrogate saying: ‘we don’t want a road through here ever’.”

The open day saw the first tree planted at the site but the Long Lands Common team warned everyone this was a”1,000-year project” where the most important thing was to get it right.

Since the land was secured in March, ecologists have been on the site in preparation for starting the lengthy process of converting farmland into a haven of biodiversity with native species of trees, a pond and full access for the community.

The first steps will be to build the public access paths from the Nidderdale Greenway and then start tree planting; up to about 20-30,000 eventually, with the finanical support of the White Rose Forest.

The good news is the first saplings are already ready.

As well as residents and schools, businesses and charities have also been supportive of Long Lands Common.

Recent weeks had seen three organisations, in particular, offer practical help - Henshaw’s College, HACs and Berwins solicitors.

Yorkshire Wildlife Trust is also on board with plans to introduce greater crested newts on the site.

After the success of last year’s shares campaign, the original plan for an open day in February was scuppered when England went back into lockdown.

Saturday’s event, which took place just days after the Government’s ending of almost all rules on the Covid pandemic, and acted as a long-overdue celebration with many of the crowd bringing picnic blankets and hampers.

Before the festivities, attendees also got the chance to ask questions to the board on the mound almost as if it was a mini-Parliament.