The Harrogate Borough Council Planning Committee have agreed to the approval of outline planning by Harrogate Spring Water.
This is the first stage in the approval of the development with the proposals now due to return to the committee in due course for full approval.
Harrogate Spring Water are looking to expand their production capabilities of their current site on Harlow Moor Road in Harrogate. The site sits adjacent the Pinewoods and they are looking to expand to the rear of the site into the Rotary Woods.
Both the current site and proposed extension site is owned by Harrogate Borough Council.
Under EU regulation, Harrogate Spring has a need to bottle at source. The present facility receives unformed bottles, processes the bottles and fills with water. The site works closely with a distribution hub in Leeds, so that all water is taken to the hub before distribution. This makes Harrogate a production facility as against a storage or distribution facility. The new facility would expand the production facility and in essence be more of what is currently there now.
The Pinewoods Conservation Group (PCG) made legal representation before the meeting. They raised concerns that there had not been adequate consideration of the area being an Asset of Community Value.
Harrogate Borough Council countered this claim and said that there had been consideration, although it was not clearly shown in the reports.
Speaking against the plans were Tony Knowles of the Harrogate Rotary Club, Jemima Parker, Chair, Zero Carbon Harrogate and Councillor Siddons on behalf of the Harlow and Pannel Ash residents association.
Speaking for the application was James Cain, Managing Director of Harrogate Water and his representative Stewart Atkinson.
Cllr Jim Clarke indicated to the meeting that he was affiliated to the Pinewoods Conservation Group and would therefore not take part in the vote. He commented that the area had been “under almost continual attack since he had become a Councillor” and that it was “particularly important to keep special landscape areas such as this”. He concluded by saying “that it was important to have a successful business but not at the cost this area and what makes it special”
Tony Knowles of Harrogate Rotary said that the issue needed to be considered on a legal, environmental and moral basis. He made not that Denton’s (PCG legal representation) still believe the application is flawed on the grounds of being a community asset. There was also mention on the 1400 trees in the current site that would be replanted.
Jemima Parker, Chair, Zero Carbon Harrogate said that the development was not a sustainable development and would have a negative impact to climate change.
Cllr Siddons spoke that little importance had been given to the area and that was the same for other areas in the town.
Credit was given to Harrogate Spring Water in the development of the business and the importance of the brand to Harrogate.
James Cain of Harrogate Spring Water spoke to the committee about the need to bottle at source and that they work hard to be a good neighbour. He explained about the Harrogate plant being production rather storage for the business.
The committee voted unanimously to approve the outline planning application.
There are now two development options on the table, one that uses a large window to show the workings of the new factory and another that is a more hidden development. Both options retain a footpath from the Iron Gates fields to the Pinewoods, along with an area of undeveloped land (100metre x 55 metres)
James Cain, Managing Director of Harrogate Spring Water said: We’re delighted with the unanimous decision yesterday, which shall ensure the safeguarding of our business future as we invest to grow and support our customers. This has been a very considered application, one which has left no stone unturned in its assessment and involving much public consultation. We now look forward to working with the PCG to ensure how best to execute our plans and develop our premises whilst ensuring our natural environment remains protected. We thank everybody for their overwhelming support as we proudly continue to put brand Harrogate on a global platform.
Neil Hind, Chair of the Pinewoods Conservation Group said: Although we are obviously disappointed with the decision of the planning committee to approve the development, we were pleased that our additional legal pressure resulted in the correct emphasis being placed on the lands “Asset of Community Value” status. It was also very encouraging to see the number of conditions being placed on the approval, including the promise of a net gain in trees for the area as confirmed in the meeting.
We will look forward to working with both Harrogate Council and Harrogate Spring Water on the next steps of the project. Our continued involvement will help ensure that the various conditions are met in full and that any further environmental impact will be minimised.
Stephen Ashworth from Dentons UKMEA LLP said: We were happy to be able to support the Pinewoods Conservation Group with this difficult area of law. Although the shortcomings in the report were noted by the planning committee it is not clear that they were properly and fully addressed – not least the failure to consider any mitigation of the harmful effects. We will be advising the group on their options and supporting them through the disposal process to ensure the legislation is followed.
Jemima Parker, Chair, Zero Carbon Harrogate said: It’s disappointing that permission has been given to destroy hundreds of trees planted to capture our local carbon emissions and which improve our local air quality. It would be a great gesture if Harrogate Spring Water could buy a new piece of land for a community woodland to compensate for the loss and offset the emissions from their business.
Terry Knowles from Harrogate Rotary Club
There seem to me to be three main issues at stake, Legal, Environmental and Moral.
On the legal front, you should have received a letter from Dentons, a firm of lawyers who specialise in the Localism Act., sent to Mr Williams yesterday, in which the status of the Rotary Centenary Wood site as an Asset of Community Value (ACV) is clearly set out. Their view is that the planning report in front of you is flawed, and is open to challenge in its current form. With an ever increasing population, and development all around either happening now. about to happen, or proposed in the new local plan, the Council should not be thinking of losing a 4 acre site of this status.
The environmental argument speaks for itself. I went up to check yesterday and counted over 1400 trees on the site plus a further 200 plus which form the present screen on the Bottling Plant land that they were obliged to plant as part of the original planning requirement. I was told that Harrogate Spring Water would be prepared to remove all the trees and plant them elsewhere if they were given permission to extend. Really?
How can Harrogate ever participate again in Harrogate in Bloom, which has featured this wood on several occasions in the past? I know – I was there with the judges. Will they be taken there again to show how much the Council thinks of the environment when it puts commercial profit above the environment? They would completely lose their credibility. And please do not forget the wild orchids and other wild life that benefits from the wood.
The Moral Argument was that the Rotary Club of Harrogate was asked to form the Pinewoods Conservation Group in 2002. I was its chairman for 3 years when we changed its status to a charity, and obtained a lot of funding through that status that the Council could not. Rotary has planted over 20,000 trees in Nidderdale and Harrogate, over 100,000 daffodil bulbs along road such as the Wetherby Road, Milton Way and The Pinewoods, thousands of crocus bulbs, hundreds of Trees in Memoriam allowing the Council to plant a second row of trees on The Stray and costing them nothing to do it. The Rotary Centenary Wood was planted in 2005 and was the Council’s ‘thank you’ to Rotary. To me a legacy for
both my work in supervising for 15 years what has been done, and to Rotary for allowing me to do it. Hundreds of children have been involved in this environmental work from every school in Harrogate, and probably thousands of teenagers at the Army Foundation College have planted trees over the years, Horticap and Open Country also.
Are there no alternatives? Could not the factory be extended sideways using part of the very wet land, no use to anyone as an amenity instead? Does the extension have to be so large? Are there operations within the factory that could be done elsewhere?
Harrogate’s reputation has been built on its origins as a Spa Town and enhanced by its marvellous Conference facilities and hotels, and its wonderful companies like Betty’s and Taylors. It is not environmentally friendly to bottle a product readily available at the turn of a tap, transport it over large distances, and put it in bottles which are not even biodegradable. Why is this being done here? Harrogate Spring Water needs the name of Harrogate much more than Harrogate needs Harrogate Spring Water. Please remember that when considering this matter.
Zero Carbon Harrogate Report
I am the chair of Zero Carbon Harrogate – a community group established to promote local initiatives in the district to mitigate climate change and stimulate transition to a thriving low carbon economy.
I have submitted an objection to the proposed development. We do not consider the proposed development to be sustainable as it necessarily means the destruction of maturing woodland which is part of an Asset of Community Value.
You will hear from others that the status of the land as an Asset of Community Value has not been taken properly into account as a material consideration. What I would like to add is that the development also, in our view, has a negative impact on the Council’s contribution to climate change. Maturing woodland, like the area under consideration, has the greatest impact in carbon sequestration.
The Council’s climate change policy is to aim “to cut the district’s carbon dioxide emissions by 40% by 2020”, in line with national government targets.
The Council’s Trees and Woodlands Policy 2016-2021 is to:
“facilitate an increasing tree population within the Harrogate district, in order to reduce atmospheric carbon via capture and storage (sequestration) and mitigate climate change locally. “
The current development fails both these objectives substantively.
If however you are minded to grant the application then appropriate mitigation should be added to the proposed planning conditions imposed:
to provide a replacement area for woodland; and
the replacement planting and thereafter management of replacement trees.