Richard Hall MD of Harrogate Spring Water
Richard Hall MD of Harrogate Spring Water

Richard Hall MD of Harrogate Spring Water on why they are returning to business expansion plans

31 May 2022

Harrogate Spring Water have said that they now intend to pursue plans for the extension of their bottling plant on Harlow Moor.

The development has history going back to 2017, when outline planning permission was granted. The plans were subsequently expanded by in increase of footprint of around 18%, but then declined by the HBC Planning Committee. Harrogate Spring Water took the decision to not appeal the decision.

The business now has the majority shareholder of Danone, with Richard Hall recently taking over as Managing Director of the business from James Cain.

The strategy now is to return to the original plans, and develop a solution that meets the business need for development, as well as satisfying as many of the concerns or reasons the revised plans were refused.

The  proposal will still result in the loss of most of the trees in Rotary Woods, although it retains a greater area for animals and people moving across it.

The Pinewoods Conservation Group has said that their primary concern is the loss of woodland and the public accessibility.

The land is owned by Harrogate Borough Council. They have said that it is not identified as “surplus” land, and the question of disposal would only follow the planning process.

A spokesperson for the Pinewoods Conversation Group said

Whilst we are pleased that the plans for the larger site have now been dropped, we are disappointed that the company still plan to progress with the original development first proposed 5 years ago.

Since then, the public’s concerns around single use plastics and views on supporting the environment have strengthened substantially.

This original development still has a large footprint of almost 2 acres that will see the removal of many trees and the loss of public accessible green space.

Richard Hall has been with Danone for nearly 30-years, but has been in post at HSWL for only a month.

Richard Hall said:

I am interested in food to start with, Danone has a portfolio of products that are largely healthy, with around 85% being healthy.

I joined them when the business was growing, and being an international company that gave me the opportunity to work in many countries.

Danone has given me the opportunity to work on projects that I am passionate about, and it is a business I believe is doing the right thing.

But globaly Danone is aiming to become a B-Corp, which is an independent verification that there is balancing of profit and good for the community. Currently the whole of Danone (UK) , including Harrogate Spring is already B-Corp certified.

The proposal is to now run a public consultation against the original plans. Those plans have outline planning approval, but HSWL say they want to tackle the reasons why a revision to those plans was declined.

Richard said:

There was previously an ambition to look at the maximum size of the extension, but I wasn’t party to the discussion at that time.

We have gone back and looked at what was it in the 2019 plan that didn’t meet the expectations of the community, and what feedback we were given.  Then we have looked at the 2017 plan, and what it meant for business, and what do we think is the appropriate development taking all those things into account.

We think the 2017 plan is appropriate for the business, and it allows us to grow, and it is closer to what we believe the community has told us is acceptable from their point of view.

So it seems sensible to put that back to the community by way of consultation, as we think it is a proposal that we can re-discuss.

We questioned Richard if the world has moved on from bottled water, and if this development was still needed?

Richard said:

In terms of bottled water, we believe that this is the right strategy as what we believe is that it is a healthy beverage.

If we look at the broader industry, not just water, but fizzy drink, fruit juices or alcohol, spring water is a healthy option, and something we believe people would like available as an option.

People want to be more healthy, whether themselves or their children, so we believe there is a place for it.

The bottles are recyclable, but not all bottles are recycled. Is this creating more plastic waste ?

Richard said:

In the UK we have other water brands, and we are a founding member of Plastic Pact.

One of the objectives is to reach 70% collection and recycling.

it’s good to have that ambition, but the question is how do you actually do that.

One of the things we work on is deposit returns. What we need is the bottles to be collected and put back into the system, then turned into the raw material that we need.

One of the key challenges for the industry is that we can’t get hold of enough recycled material, as people are not putting it into the correct.

So deposit returns, some government taxation changes is all moving things in the right direction – a circular economy.

Plastic Pact aims to create a circular economy with plastic going back into the system.

The development will result in employment for 30 FTE. The extension is for bottling, not storage.

The approach from here will be to shortly start a consultation process. That will be online through a dedicated webpage there will also be in-person events, and direct engagement with community groups.

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