Local politicians give views on Harrogate Spring Water expansion plans
Nov 29, 2023
Tom Gordon (left) and Andrew Jones give their views o the controversial plans to fell trees.

The Liberal Democrat candidate aiming to be Harrogate and Knaresborough’s next MP has said he opposes the latest expansion plans by Harrogate Spring Water.

However, the current Conservative MP Andrew Jones has not given an explicit indication of whether he supports or opposes the plans.

Harrogate Spring Water revealed proposals this month to fell 450 trees near its Harlow Moor Drive headquarters so it can expand its bottling plant and produce more plastic bottles.

It says the scheme will create 50 jobs and lead to a net biodiversity gain because it will create a 1,200-tree publicly accessible woodland nearby.

But the campaign group Save Rotary Wood is leading opposition to the loss of trees, which were planted by schoolchildren concerned about climate change.

Harrogate Spring Water, which is owned by French multinational Danone, is holding a public consultation event at the Crown Hotel in Harrogate from 4pm to 7pm tomorrow (Thursday, November 30).

Ahead of the meeting, we asked Mr Jones and Mr Gordon for their views on the subject.

Mr Gordon said:

“Whilst I absolutely want to see more jobs in Harrogate, and the benefit that would bring for our local economy, I do not support the plans in their current form.

“We should be protecting woodland and preserving biodiversity; to suggest there will be a net gain is not guaranteed, as it would take years for new trees to mature.”

Mr Jones gave a lengthier response but did not state explicitly whether he supported the proposal.

He said:

“The level of community engagement by Harrogate Spring Water on their latest application is a significant and welcome improvement on their previous attempt to achieve approval for their extension. That public consultation is critical as the outcome will rightly be a significant part of the considerations of the Harrogate and Knaresborough planning committee when they look at the application.

“The environmental offer is a big improvement on what we saw previously. And that is important, as constituents to whom I have spoken want significant additional tree planting and public access to that new woodland if the council are minded to approve the proposals.

“On the face of it, replacing trees that are lost on a 3-to-1 or a 6-to-1 ratio is a large increase in cover. The concern is that saplings will be replacing trees with 25 years’ growth. I have spoken to people who helped plant saplings in Rotary Wood all those years ago and I can understand why that is a very emotive part of these plans.”

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Mr Jones added:

“Having said that, it is also important to acknowledge that Harrogate Water is a successful local business that carries the name of our town across the world. I want that success to continue and to grow.

“So a welcome for the vastly improved public engagement, a welcome for the increased environmental offer alongside public access and a recognition that we want successful businesses locally. But I understand the caution about habitat loss and the loss of an area enjoyed by many for recreation.

“There is a public consultation event this week which can help further shape the proposals. I encourage everyone with an interest to attend that meeting and help ensure that the planners get the best possible application to consider.”