Harrogate Borough Council to remove artificial grass after admitting 'we got things wrong'

The local authority says it is "holding its hands up" after receiving a huge backlash from residents for installing plastic grass in plant pots on the town's main shopping street.

Monday, 17th May 2021, 6:43 pm
Updated Monday, 17th May 2021, 6:44 pm

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Following a week of furious comments on social media, a protest by Extinction Rebellion and the launch of a petition against the decision, Harrogate Borough Council (HBC) has announced it will now be removing the 'grass'.

A statement reads: "We’ll get straight to the point, we’re holding our hands up. We got things wrong with the artificial grass in the planters on Cambridge Street in Harrogate....

Harrogate Borough Council is set to remove the artificial grass from plant pots in the town centre. Picture: Gerard Binks.

"We will be removing the ‘grass’ and keeping the planters while we continue to find a better solution."

The council, which previously defended the move, said the artificial grass was installed as a 'last resort' as the trees soak up all the nutrients and cause the other plants within the pots to die.

It added: "Inevitably, this leads to the plants looking rather sorry for themselves and the beds becoming nothing more than a magnet for cigarette butts, empty coffee cups and fast-food packaging.

"We looked at using stone or bark but ruled this out because we felt it will be most likely end up being used as an ashtray or thrown around.

"The artificial grass was a last resort, and the decision to use it was made with the best intentions, but on reflection it was the wrong one."

HBC also said the commotion around the project had detracted from its other work, such as 5,500 wildflowers on the Stray and the upcoming White Rose Forest project, which it says will see thousands of trees being planted.

The authority now hopes to have something new and 'vibrant' in place by the end of June, adding: "This will compliment Harrogate’s award-winning floral displays that we take enormous pride in looking after."

The decision comes just days after residents launched a petition against the use of the artificial grass.

More than 400 people have signed the petition, which "demands Harrogate Borough Council prioritise biodiversity and remove the plastic grass from our town planters".

The post on the petition page reads: "The Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act (2006) requires all public authorities to have regard for conserving biodiversity in the exercise of their functions. Planning policies and decisions should minimise impacts on and provide net gains for biodiversity. Artificial grass holds no biodiversity net gains."

Last week, Extinction Rebellion took to Harrogate town centre to remove the fake grass from one of the planters and replace it with a number of real plants and a poem about the environment.

Although the council said the 'grass' was just going to be used as a base and placed full planters on top of it, protesters say the authority "missed the point" and that using plastic was never the answer.