Pinewoods Conservation Group spoke at the Harrogate Council meeting on 10 February 2021, requesting reissuance about the use of the Rotary Fields woodland, part of the Pinewoods.
The land has been subject to a planning request by Harrogate Spring Water/ Danone. Outline planning was approved, but full planning consent for a larger bottling plant was refused by the HBC planning committee.
Harrogate Spring Water/ Danone may still submit a planning request for the plans that still have outline planning approval – the outcome would be in the hands of the planning committee.
Neil Hind from the Pinewoods Conservation Group, question to HBC meeting:
The council are hopefully aware of the recent decision to reject a variation for a larger extension of Harrogate Spring Water and the substantial public support to conserve Rotary Wood that application generated.
Following that and the negative press generated, can Harrogate Council now confirm all of Rotary Wood will remain as publicly owned & accessible green space and no plan to lease or sell will be considered.
You can view the councils response here: Meeting of the Council – Wednesday 10 February 2021 – YouTube (Approx 35 mins)
Councillor Graham Swift, Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Resources, Enterprise and Economic Development, was dismissive of the question. He spent some minutes voicing is unequivocal support for Harrogate Spring Water/ Danone.
He termed the work of Pinewoods Conservation Group, Zero Carbon Harrogate, Harrogate District Climate Change Coalition and the Green Party as only “creating noise” and was dismissive of 300 responses in relation to the population in the area.
However, although vocal on many aspects of the the planning request, when it came to answering the original question from the Pinewoods Conservation Group he declined to saying that it was still part of the planning process.
A spokesperson for the Pinewoods Conservation Group said
The fact the response was via the cabinet member for resources, enterprise and economic development is a clear indication of the councils priorities and intent here. We were obviously very disappointed by the reply from Cllr Swift who is obviously very supportive of the development plans.
This was an opportunity for the council to confirm once and for all its green intentions and it unfortunately failed to do so. As such it is unfortunate that Rotary Wood, planted by the community, remains at risk.
Full text of Councillor Graham Swift, Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Resources, Enterprise and Economic Development, response:
As Cabinet Member for Economic Development, I always welcome the opportunity to talk about businesses like Harrogate Spring Water who have been a significant district employer and promoter of Harrogate as a healthy, spa based tourism town, open to the world. This business has invested heavily in Harrogate and I gather that the Harlow Moor based site showcases the highest bottling standards in the industry – environmentally efficient, recognised green building standards, and zero waste management practices. HSW was North Yorkshire’s first certified “B-Corp” business delivering the highest standard of verified social, environmental and governance standards aimed to deliver a more inclusive and sustainable economy. Most residents are proud of the work HSW has done for this town, bottling water at source.
As Cabinet Member for Economic Development I welcome and encourage more businesses such as these into Harrogate and literally living as its closest west side neighbour for over ten years, I can tell the council that they have worked hard to meet neighbour considerations and listen carefully to genuine concerns as they have developed their business and worked hard to improve the water basin of our shared product. Whilst no business is perfect in this regard, I would choose them as a neighbour exemplar and encourage residents to work with them as they work with us.
I am very aware of the recent decision taken at planning committee. Professional planning officers worked through all sides of the case and came to a clear, balanced recommendation. My own reading of the application is that it was a modest variation in scale, increased employment by 87 people and provided major improvements in ESG (environmental and social governance) performance.
However as Mr Hind points out in his question there has been some noise generated around this application, with approximately 300 objections from our 169 000 residents. Unfortunately much of the noise associated with these concerns failed to recognise that the same committee have already approved an outline planning application on this site back in 2017 and this amendment or variation was largely aimed at improving the environmental credentials of the plan. This original approval was a unanimous decision by planning committee, and I was therefore personally surprised to see an improved variation in my eyes to be turned down on this occasion.
Specifically addressing Mr Hind’s question, a key component of the Council making any decision about a potential disposal of land is to ensure that we have access to the full facts, so that all relevant considerations can be taken in to account. The planning status of a site is one of these key considerations, therefore as the Reserved Matters application is still to be determined by Planning Committee it would be premature at this stage to comment on a potential future disposal. Equally it would be wrong of me to interfere with planning matters or attempt to override planning decisions by causing obstruction to their decisions. Our committee have already taken the decision to approve one application from a significant local business and although reserved matters are still to be dealt with, I for one am not prepared to interfere with the planning process or attempt to limit it in its powers.
It is important to note, however, that if HBC do eventually choose to lease or sell this site we will – as always – abide by proper procedures relating to the site including considering ACV status, and also ensure that council achieves and demonstrates best consideration for our asset – a critical hurdle for all public bodies such as Harrogate Borough Council.