Police criticised over delays to Ripon Town Hall move

North Yorkshire Police has been accused of a “flagrant breach of trust” by a councillor because its planned move into Ripon Town Hall has still not happened.

In February, the office for North Yorkshire Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner Zoe Metcalfe issued a press release to say that a £91,000 refurbishment of space in the town hall was already underway to give officers more of a presence in the city centre.

But six months later none of the works have actually taken place, which has led Cllr Andrew Williams to describe the original press release as “complete and utter bunkum” in an interview with the Local Democracy Reporting Service.

Cllr Williams, who is leader of Ripon City Council and also represents the Conservatives and Independents group on North Yorkshire Council, criticised North Yorkshire Police and the crime commissioner for not delivering on their pledge.

Cllr Williams said:

“I’d like to see North Yorkshire Police honour their commitment and have an opportunity for residents to speak to officers in the city.

“I’m sick of procrastination and prevarication and now is the time for action.

“It’s a fragrant breach of trust with the public that she has issued this instruction but it’s not been delivered.”

Since the covid pandemic, Ripon has suffered from a series of anti-social behaviour problems and councillors were hopeful the move to create a public consultation room, an office and a break out room for officers, will help tackle crime in the city.

This would become an additional site to Ripon’s main Police and Fire Station based at Stonebridgegate.

Police response

A spokesperson for the crime commissioner said following the decision to approve funding for the move into the town hall, the ground floor space originally offered by Harrogate Borough Council was changed by the new North Yorkshire Council, in conjunction with Ripon City Council.

Alternative space was then offered on the second floor which it said will need to be assessed for “public accessibility and operational use”.

The spokesperson said:

“Commissioner Zoë is committed to ensuring that the residents of Ripon are provided with consistent, visible policing, and it is understood that North Yorkshire Police are currently in the process of assessing a number of additional sites in the heart of the City to ensure the local policing team are accessible to the public.

Ms Metcalfe added:

“When elected as police, fire and crime commissioner I made a commitment to the people of North Yorkshire that I would strive to ensure that they would always be safe and feel safe, with efficient use of public resources being one of my five key priorities.”

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Figures reveal exactly how much money council has received from Harrogate Spring Water

Harrogate Borough Council has received almost £500,000 from Harrogate Spring Water since 2017 as a share of the company’s annual turnover, new figures reveal.

The council owns the land where the company is based on Harlow Moor Road and receives £13,000 a year in ground rent.

Harrogate Spring Water also has to pay a percentage of annual turnover to the council. This is known as turnover rent.

The turnover rent agreement was drawn up in the early 2000s when the council granted planning permission to build a bottling plant on land leased to the company.

However, the figure has never been made public.

Two-year battle

For almost two years, the Stray Ferret has tried to find out exactly how much the council benefits from the success of the Danone-owned company.

We first asked the question to HBC in a freedom of information request in January 2021, almost two years ago.

But the council refused to tell us. It said:

“This information is deemed to be of commercial value and, if disclosed, may impact on the council’s ability to negotiate and harm its legitimate interests, putting it in a commercially disadvantageous situation.”

We then requested that HBC undertake an internal review of this decision.

However, Joanne Barclay, acting chief solicitor at HBC, came to the same conclusion, adding “confidence may be eroded if commercial rents were to be disclosed”.

In summer 2021, we submitted a complaint about the council’s decision not to disclose the sum to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).

ICO is an independent government body that promotes openness within public bodies.

After a long delay due to a backlog, it investigated HBC’s refusal and asked the council to look again at the Stray Ferret’s question. It has now decided to publish the figures for the last five years.

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Finally publishing the figures

Earlier this year, the BBC’s Local Democracy Service revealed that HBC receives 0.5% of the company’s annual turnover.

It estimated the council received £853,033 over an 18-year period, however, new information suggests that is likely to be a higher figure.

Since 2017, HBC has received £495,000.

Company accounts published on Friday revealed turnover has returned to pre-covid levels after dipping significantly due to the pandemic.

Each year, the council has received the following sum from Harrogate Spring Water in turnover rent:

2017  – £92,811.87

2018  – £138,026.18

2019  – £91,153.15

2020  – £152,332.02

2021  – £21,995.79

Global brand

Harrogate Borough Council and Harrogate Spring Water’s histories are intertwined.

Water has been bottled in Harrogate for centuries but in the early 1990s Harrogate Spa Water, as the company was previously known, was selling just 1,000 bottles of water a year.

The company’s fortunes changed in the late 1990s when HBC, run then by the Liberal Democrats, identified an opportunity to explore water resources at the current site on Harlow Moor Road.

Harrogate Spring Water has since gone from strength to strength to become a global brand.

The relationship between the two organisations has come into focus due to Harrogate Spring Water’s attempts to expand its bottling plant into Rotary Wood.

The council has always maintained that its status as planning authority and Harrogate Spring Water’s landlord are separate.

A Harrogate Borough Council spokesperson said:

“We have had a base rent and turnover rent agreement in place with Harrogate Spring Water Ltd since 2002.

“As with all of our rental agreements, the money generated is used to help deliver valuable front-line services across the Harrogate district.”

Ripon Tractor Fest raises £4,000 for hospital’s children’s ward

A charity tractor fest in Ripon has raised £4,000 for the Leeds General Infirmary Neonatal Unit.

It was organised by Tom Tate after his newborn son recently spent time in intensive care at LGI with a life-threatening condition.

Mr Tate’s partner Sarah gave birth to their son, Freddie, three-and-a-half months ago.

But soon afterwards he was diagnosed with Atrial flutter, a type of abnormal heart rhythm that makes the heart beat too quickly.

Mr Tate said it was a frightening time for the family. He said:

“When he was born straight away we knew something wasn’t right. In a baby, Atrial flutter is life threatening.

“But after two weeks in intensive care at the LGI, they got him right, and they looked after me and Sarah.”

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Freddie is thankfully now at home and fighting fit, but his dad said he wanted to repay the hospital by raising money for the LGI Neonatal Unit through the Leeds Hospitals Charity.

Mr Tate is a member of West Yorkshire Tractor and Engine Club and around 80 vintage and modern tractors from the club attended F. Tate and Sons garden centre at Studley Road on September 24. It was also attended by the Yorkshire Vet, Peter Wright.

A total of £4,000 was raised, which will be used to transform the corridors in the neonatal ward. They have been renamed the ‘corridors of courage’ and will include pictures and stories to help other families through their hard times.

Mr Tate said:

“I’m absolutely amazed at how the day went. Massive thank-you to everyone who attended and donated, helping us raise a massive £4,000 for the LGI neonatal unit. It’s such an overwhelming feeling to gi\ve a huge amount of money to an excellent cause.”

Harrogate Spring Water reports £23m turnover but still makes a loss

Harrogate Spring Water saw sales return to almost pre-pandemic levels last year but still made a loss.

The company, which is owned by French multinational Danone, last week published its latest annual financial report covering the period from December 2020 to December 2021.

During this period, the company reported a turnover of £23m and a gross profit of £6.9m.

However, despite the improved sales figures for 2021, the company still made a loss of £1.3m after costs, expenses and tax.

Bouncing back

The healthy sales figures reflect how the bottled drinking water firm bounced back after its previous report, which covered March 2020 until December 2020, and saw revenue fall sharply.

The decline in 2020 was mainly due to hotels and restaurants that serve its water being closed due to covid.

Turnover in 2021 returned close to its pre-covid figures for 2019/20, when it recorded a turnover of £26.2m in the 12-month period ending March 31 2020.

Harrogate Spring Water declined to make a comment on the accounts.

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The Pinewoods expansion

Meanwhile, Harrogate Spring Water is preparing to submit a new planning application to expand its bottling plant in the Pinewoods.

The company was granted outline planning permission to expand to the west of its existing site in 2016, which meant the principle of development had been established but the details had not been agreed.

The reserved matters application provoked a major backlash due to the loss of trees at Rotary Wood. In January 2021, councillors on the planning committee voted overwhelmingly to reject it— against the wishes of council officers who had recommended approval.

The firm held a consultation on plans for its Rotary Wood site this summer and said it would now provide a further update “in the coming weeks”.

Knaresborough concert raises £800 for Resurrected Bites

A concert last weekend at Gracious Street Methodist Church in Knaresborough raised over £800 for local food poverty organisation Resurrected Bites.

The concert featured musicians and singers including the Silver Keys Clarinet Quartet, Thula Mamas and Knaresborough Silver Band.

Music included Graham Kendrick’s ‘Teach me to Dance’, Gershwin’s ‘Summertime’, Lennon and McCartney’s ‘When I’m 64’ and Brian Hoare’s ‘Born in Song’.

The event was organised by Sarah Darvill and Nick Garrett.

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Resurrected Bites was established by Michelle Hayes in 2018 and began life as a ‘pay-as-you-feel’ community café working with local businesses and suppliers to divert good quality food from landfill.

It turns the food into meals in its cafes and provides it to families through its community groceries scheme.

The organisation runs cafes at Gracious Street Methodist Church in Knaresborough and West Park United Reformed Church in Harrogate. It has also launched a community groceries scheme with bases in Harrogate and Knaresborough.

MPs Watch: ‘Wrong’ tax cuts and the death of the Queen

Every month the Stray Ferret tries to find out what our local MPs have been up to in their constituencies and in the House of Commons.

September was a monumental month for the country. Queen Elizabeth II died after over 70 years on the throne, a new Prime Minister was appointed and proposed tax cuts by the Conservatives sent the value of the pound into a tailspin.

We asked our three Conservative MPs, Harrogate & Knaresborough’s Andrew Jones, Skipton and Ripon’s Julian Smith, and Selby and Ainsty’s Nigel Adams if they would like to highlight anything in particular that they have been doing this month, but, as usual, we did not receive a response from any of them.

Here is what we know after analysing their online presence.

Andrew Jones, Harrogate and Knaresborough MP.

Andrew Jones, Harrogate and Knaresborough MP.

In Harrogate and Knaresborough, here is what we found out on Mr Jones:

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Julian Smith, MP for Ripon and Skipton.

Julian Smith, MP for Skipton and Ripon.

In Skipton and Ripon, here is what we found on Mr Smith:

Nigel Adams, MP for Selby and Ainsty

In rural south Harrogate, here is what we found on Mr Adams:

Ouseburn councillor opens Green Party conference in Harrogate

The Green Party autumn conference was opened this afternoon by Harrogate man Arnold Warneken, North Yorkshire County Council councillor for Ouseburn.

Cllr Warneken was elected in May with 69% of the vote and he gave a passionate speech to delegates at Harrogate Convention Centre.

He recalled how he was first elected as a councillor 32 years ago to the then-Harrogate District Council.

In those days, he was the only Green Party councillor in the north of England.

After his recent return to local politics, he said the five Greens elected to the county council in May were “already starting to make a difference”. He accused the Tory-led council of “procrastinating” on the climate emergency.

Cllr Warneken also had some sharp words for Harrogate Spring Water and its plan to fell trees in Rotary Wood to expand its bottling plant.

He said:

“At the pump rooms, people came from all over the country to have our foul-tasting and smelly water heal them. It was dispensed in a ladle by Betty Lupton.

“However, 100 years later Betty Lupton has been replaced by Danone. Her ladle has been replaced by millions of plastic bottles produced by Harrogate Spring Water and Danone before being sent all over the world. Shame on them.”

He was followed by a speech from Green Party co-leaders Carla Denyer and Adrian Ramsay.

The three-day conference ends on Sunday.

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The Stray Ferret spoke to Cllr Warneken beforehand where he said he was “proud and honoured” to open the event.

Cllr Warneken added:

“We are at a turning point in Green politics. In 2018, we had 150 councillors, now in 2022 we have over 500. We are hoping we can get somebody to help Caroline Lucas MP in Parliament.

“We have Liberal Democrat councillor Pat Marsh speaking here on Sunday. That’s the way politics has to move forward. We’re hoping for a hung parliament so we can introduce PR. The future’s bright, the future’s green.”

Double transplant Ripon woman urges people to donate organs

Dr Claire Corps will be in Ripon city centre tomorrow talking to people about the importance of organ donation.

Dr Corps’ life has been saved twice thanks to organ donors. Aged 12, she received a kidney transplant after being diagnosed with renal failure.

Then at the age of 24 she suffered liver failure and was again saved with a transplant.

It’s currently Organ Donation Week and Dr Corps will be asking people to have a conversation with their next of kin to tell them their wishes for organ donation.

Although England now operates an opt-out system, whereby all adults are considered to have agreed to be an organ donor when they die unless they have recorded a decision not to donate or are in one of the excluded groups,  Dr Corps said many families still didn’t know what their loved ones would have wanted and many opportunities to save lives are missed.

Forty-two years on from her first organ donation, she’s grateful for the operations saving her life.

She said:

“We’re getting together and asking people to talk to their next of kin about their wishes.

“We’re losing a lot of organs and people are dying.”

You can register your organ donation decision here.

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Harrogate Town welcome Bradford City tomorrow in crunch Yorkshire derby

A bumper crowd is expected at Harrogate Town tomorrow as they welcome Bradford City in a crunch Yorkshire derby.

Town are on on a poor run of form and haven’t won in League Two since beating Gillingham away on August 16.

It’s been even longer since they last tasted victory at home, when they beat Swindon 3-0 on July 30.

The squad had a major overhaul during the summer, with 15 new signings, but it’s taking longer to gel than manager Simon Weaver would have liked.

Despite all he’s achieved during his 13 years in charge, Weaver’s position is being questioned by some fans.

In a pre-match interview, he said:

“We expect Bradford will bring lots of fans. There’s lots of interest from a Harrogate point of view and we expect a buoyant crowd. It should be an eventful game.”

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Attendances at the EnviroVent have been down on last season but around 2,500 tickets have been sold for the game so far, which includes 600 Bradford fans.

The game kicks off at 1pm.

Tickets are on sale from the club’s Commercial Street store until 4pm today. There will be no further sales after this point.

Value of North Yorkshire pension fund secure following crisis, says council

North Yorkshire County County has said the value of its £4.9bn pension fund is secure.

It follows this week’s unprecedented move by the Bank of England to step in and calm markets after fears that some pension funds were at risk of collapse.

The bank ended up pledging to buy £65bn of government bonds, which many pension funds invest in, after their value plunged following last week’s government mini-budget.

To pay for retirement pensions, staff from Harrogate Borough Council and 30 other district, city and town councils in the county pay into the North Yorkshire Pension Fund through their salary.  The fund is administered by North Yorkshire County Council.

According to the pension fund’s latest annual report, the fund has £141m in government bonds, also called gilts.

However, the investment is worth just 3.1% of the total portfolio. The majority of the fund has been invested in shares and other financial products.

North Yorkshire Pension Fund treasurer Gary Fielding said:

“We are monitoring the current situation closely. Although the UK financial market and the value of sterling have been under pressure, this has had a very limited impact on the fund. 

“The investments are spread across the globe and in a range of assets classes, providing the fund with a high degree of resilience.”

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