Campaigner accuses Harrogate Spring Water of ‘greenwashing’ over expansion plans
Last updated Sep 29, 2022
Sarah Gibbs protesting against Harrogate Spring Water's planned expansion

A campaigner has accused Harrogate Spring Water of “greenwashing” over its latest plans to expand its plastic bottled water plant over a community woodland.

Sarah Gibbs, who has staged several protests dressed as a tree, said she had seen “no evidence” from the company on how it will manage the environmental impacts of the proposed expansion at Rotary Wood, which was planted by children 17 years ago.

Her comments come as Harrogate’s Green Party, Extinction Rebellion and other campaign groups are set to protest against the plans today.

Harrogate Spring Water, which is owned by French firm Danone, recently held a public consultation and is now “finalising” its proposals after a larger expansion was refused by Harrogate Borough Council last year.

Ms Gibbs said she took part in a recent consultation event, but added she was left with more questions than answers. She told the Local Democracy Reporting Service:

“I am interested to know how Harrogate Spring Water are finalising plans without a recent ecological survey.

“I attended the public consultation and saw no evidence of this, nor any evidence of an arboricultural impact assessment or tree protection plan.

“What I did see was a great deal of greenwashing, for example, launching a litter picking campaign.

“I have found Harrogate Spring Water bottles littering the streets of Harrogate and London.

“This is not a solution to a problem perpetuated by this industry.”

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In response, a Harrogate Spring Water spokesperson said the company would listen to all concerns from the community and that environmental impact assessments would be provided when the new proposals are revealed in full.

The spokesperson said:

“We remain committed to this approach and to taking on board people’s views about the design and landscaping of the proposed extension, which was granted outline planning permission by Harrogate Borough Council in 2017.

“We are currently putting together our updated proposals for how the new building will look and how the surrounding area will be landscaped.

“We intend to put these proposals on display to the public to gather their thoughts before we send our updated reserved matters proposals to the council.”

When the larger expansion plans were refused in January 2021, the council was accused of putting “profit and plastic before the environment” as the authority recommended approval.

This sparked a huge backlash by the community, and the plans were later rejected by members of the council’s planning committee who said they could not support the recommendation as approval would have been “damaging” for Harrogate’s image.

Harrogate Spring Water plant

Harrogate Spring Water, Harlow Moor Road in Harrogate.

Harrogate Spring Water then announced it would revert back to original plans for a smaller expansion, although questions remain over how much of Rotary Wood could be felled as the final designs have yet to be revealed.

Ms Gibbs, who will hold a protest walk from Harrogate Convention Centre to Rotary Wood on Sunday, said she was against the expansion altogether as the woodland needed to be protected because of its “great importance” to biodiversity and the community.

She said:

“If Harrogate Spring Water and Danone indeed listened to the community, they would not still be considering the deforestation of Rotary Wood.

“It is, in part, due to community action and outcry that the further expansion on the outline planning was refused.

“It is important that the people of the Harrogate district, and beyond, understand that they can be truly heard, and that their efforts to save Rotary Wood were not, and are not in vain. Still.”