Fears for future of threatened woodland in Harrogate

Site plans - An aerial shot showing how expansion plans would affect the woods near Harrogate Spring Water.
Site plans - An aerial shot showing how expansion plans would affect the woods near Harrogate Spring Water.

Harrogate Rotarians have come out strongly against the destruction of woodland near the Pinewoods as part of expansion plans by one of Harrogate's most successful companies.

The area, known as Millennium or Rotary Wood, was created in 2005 by Harrogate Rotary as part of their centenary celebrations.

Hundreds of new trees, made up from around 70 native and European species, were planted on land owned by Harrogate Borough Council by members of the Rotary with local schools and other groups to form an extension to the original Pinewoods.

But Rotary Club of Harrogate say Harrogate Spring Water's plans to extend their factory onto the site of the trees would ont only ruin the woodland but wood set a "dangerous precedent" in similar situations across the district.

On behalf of the Rotary Club of Harrogate, Terry Knowles said: "The Rotary Club of Harrogate is totally opposed to the proposal that Harrogate Spring Water should extend their factory onto the Rotary Centenary Wood site.

"Such a development would cut off the newer woodland on the Irongates field, destroy a large number of maturing trees, devastate the existing wild orchids, and take away a valuable wildlife habitat as well as an amenity to many people who like to walk in that area."

A world-wide success, Harrogate Spring Water, which employs more than 70 people and gives more than £40,000 each year to local charitable projects, is Britain’s oldest bottled brand and has enjoyed rapid growth in sales.

The proposed development, the firm says, could be key to bringing huge economic benefits to Harrogate and across the region.

It says its plans to expand by up to 5,500sq m are essential to enable it to continue to ensure its water can be bottled at source.

Harrogate Spring Water’s managing director James Cain OBE said: “Our proposed development is the only way to secure the future of our business. We cannot simply move as we have to bottle our products at source.

“Our plans do not involve losing footpaths or damaging the wildlife that has been create.Moreover, we will be adding to the landscaping and improving public access.”

Stuart Natkus, planning director at Barton Willmore said “The impact upon the surrounding area and landscape have been at the forefront of the plans for the expansion.

"The aim of this expansion is to deliver a high class facility that the town will continue to benefit from and be proud of, whilst also maintaining and enhancing the local area for the local community.

"Our team of Landscape Architects have identified parameter plans, planting areas and detailed landscape proposals to both mitigate and enhance the local area, including areas designed to specifically enhance public use and enjoyment.”

But the Rotary Club of Harrogate said, if given the go-ahead, the chopping down of the woods would send out the wrong signals for the environment.

Terry Knowles said: "The proposal for the extension, if granted, puts in jeopardy all woodland in the district, creating a dangerous precedent that no woodland is safe.

"At a time when everyone should be aware of the need to reduce Carbon Emissions and/or plant trees to alleviate the situation, the un-necessary destruction of woodland is certainly a step in the wrong direction.

"That's not even mentioning the waste of money raised to buy the trees, and the disillusionment of those, young and old who helped to plant the trees."

Another local group worried currently about Harrogate Spring Water's plans are Pinewoods Conservation Group.

It applied for green space designation to protect the Pinewoods last year as part of the new local plan but was turned down by the council.

Members and residents are being encouraged by the PCG to visit the consultation page at www.pinewoodsconservationgroup.org.uk/rotarywood and suggest further questions. They can also make their views known via email to contact @pinewoodsconservationgroup.org.uk or on the groups Facebook page at www.facebook.com/PinewoodsConservationGroup/.

The PCG has also invited both HSWL and HBC to its Annual General Meeting on Thursday, March 9 at the Green Hunt from 7pm to allow for this information to be discussed.

Full details on the proposal can be found via the council’s planning portal at www.uniformonline.harrogate.gov.uk using reference 16/05254/OUTMAJ.