The Pinewoods Conservation Group (PCG) will tonight (Thu 9 March 2017) publish a proposal to expand the Pinewoods footprint at their Annual General Meeting.
The Pinewoods, situated between Valley Gardens and RHS Harlow Carr, forms part of a key green triangle towards the south of Harrogate but is under constant threat by neighbouring building developments. A recent planning application was also submitted by Harrogate Spa Water Limited (HSWL) to build a 5,000 sq meter extension on a 4-acre section of the Pinewoods current footprint, known as Rotary Wood.
The proposal, initially suggested by a PCG member, will recommend that the Council Nursery site adjacent to the Pinewoods is transformed into a new wooded and wildlife friendly area once vacated. The Council Nursery site, currently owned by Harrogate Council, was included in the recent draft local plan as a potential housing site but received many objections.
A spokesperson for the Pinewoods said: We know that our members and local residents are very concerned about the potential loss of woodland. If planning permission is given for the HSWL extension we would expect a condition to be applied under the councils own “2 for 1” tree replacement policy that an additional 8 acres of woodland to be found. We feel that the council owned nursery site would be ideal for this purpose.
Whilst the council nurseries are still operational, a number of functions have already moved to other sites with more are to follow, so it may take a number of years for the proposal to come to fruition. It would also need the cooperation of both HSWL and Harrogate Council but would be an exciting legacy project for all parties.
As such we feel this would be a more appropriate use of the site and this proposal would result in a net gain in green space for Harrogate residents.
The open meeting will take place at the Green Hut or Harlow Avenue from 7pm to allow for the proposal to be discussed. It is expected that representatives from both Harrogate Council and Harrogate Spa Water Limited will be in attendance.
Harrogate Borough Council are aware of the proposals.
Councillor Rebecca Burnett, Harrogate Borough Council’s Cabinet Member for Planning and Sustainable Transport said: The Pinewoods is an important part of Harrogate, this lush woodland is a magnificent asset, which is highly valued by residents and visitors as it provides an oasis of calm in our otherwise busy lives.
The council are committed to preserving this wonderful part of Harrogate. Each year, we invest financial resources in maintaining and improving the Pinewoods. The work we undertake to preserve the area includes drafting and then overseeing the implementation of works in accordance with the Pinewoods Management Plan, including woodland and infrastructure works, engaging contractors and overseeing the procurement process; assisting with the Pinewoods Open Day Event (tree climbing); engaging with other groups and schools on site initiatives; and taking a lead on other projects such as presenting at the AGM, Forest School activities and Nature Spy Camera installations. This clearly demonstrates our commitment to the Pinewoods and our support for the work of the Pinewoods Conservation Group.
An asset review was undertaken earlier this year which found that the site of the council’s nursery at Harlow Hill was not considered ideal for this use in the future, due to the layout, restrictions of the site and the significant investment required to maintain it. This review therefore declared the site as surplus to requirements. This does not necessarily mean we will be selling the land – indeed no decision has yet been made concerning its future use. The council nursery will continue at the site, whilst its future use is considered.
As part of the assessment for the draft Local Plan – a 25-year blueprint for future housing needs, officers have considered all available sites in the district and have identified the nursery site as a potential housing allocation. As with all allocations in the draft Local Plan, the public have had the opportunity to give their views on this suggestion and other potential sites for new homes through public consultation.
We have received thousands of comments concerning hundreds of potential development sites and are currently considering the submissions ahead of a further Local Plan consultation this summer.
We take our dual roles as a planning authority and landlord extremely seriously, as such we work hard to ensure they are kept separate in terms of decision making. Clear processes and procedures are in place to ensure that we act appropriately and transparently in this regard. As yet we have not received any specific proposals from the Pinewoods Group regarding the nursery site, but would be happy to give any such request due consideration as part of our wider asset review work.