This is why Rotary Wood decision may be a 'pivotal' moment for Harrogate's future

Campaigners battling to save Rotary Wood believe this week’s decision by councillors to reject bigger expansion plans by Harrogate Spring Water represents a pivotal moment for the town.

Friday, 29th January 2021, 2:24 pm
Updated Friday, 29th January 2021, 2:28 pm
Centre of a storm - trees on Harlow Hill in Harrogate whose future prompted the campaign to save Rotary Wood.

After eight councillors on Harrogate Borough Council’s 12-person planning committee voted to refuse the company’s revised plans, a range of local green and community groups hailed what they saw as a victory for the environment and local residents.

It was a “critical step”, said Neil Hind, chair of Pinewoods Conservation Group, who also spoke at the council meeting.

“This is a pivotal decision,” added Jemima Parker, chair of Zero Carbon Harrogate.

Harrogate Spring Water, which said the plans were essential to the business and would create extra jobs, is now considering its next step.

But it says it remains committed to creating a “positive environmental impact” in the area near the town’s much-loved Pinewoods.

Rob Pickering, a senior spokesperson for the company, said: “We have been able to clearly demonstrate the economic and environmental benefits, as well as outline our commitment to leaving a positive environmental impact. But we’re disappointed by the committee’s decision to reject the revision of our planning application.”

Two of the councillors who spoke against the revised expansion plans remember the controversy in the early ‘Noughties’ when Harrogte Spring Water’s plant was first built on Harlow Moor Road.

Twenty years ago, councillors including Jim Clark (Conservative) and Pat Marsh (Lib Dem) were worried about its impact on local residents.

Now they were worried about the impact on the planet.

Harrogate Spring Water is clearly an important brand but, they argued, so too, is the town of Harrogate itself.

Coun Clark argued that by supporting the chopping down of trees and supporting a bottling plant, it would send out the wrong signals.

He said: “To support this expansion would be very damaging for Harrogate. Do we really want to be known as a major exporter of pollution?”

Speaking at Tuesday’s meeting, campaigner Neil Hind warned “eyes from all over the world are watching Harrogate”.

That fear alone may have helped swing the vote as much as concern that the loss of Rotary Wood trees was not being sufficiently compensated on land elsewhere.

But one councillor who did argue in favour of Harrogate Spring Water, Nigel Simms (Conservative) made a simple point: the company already has approval for its first version of expansion, which is only 22% shy in size of the now rejected option.

The question now is what Harrogate Spring Water will do next, knowing as they do, the sense of green feeling within the town.

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