Readers’ Letters: Hookstone Woods being turned into a ‘light-polluted disco’
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Last updated Feb 16, 2024

Readers’ Letters is a weekly column giving you the chance to have your say on issues affecting the Harrogate district. It is an opinion column and does not reflect the views of the Stray Ferret. Send your views to [email protected].


I have walked in Hookstone Woods with my beloved dogs for over 30 years. For several decades it has been a sea of tranquillity in south Harrogate and an opportunity to enjoy the local nature while taking in the fresh air.

Unfortunately, in the last few years the squash club seems to be on a mission to make it its own territory. Not content with the noise pollution caused by their padel court (which has turned the ponds into an area which can feel like I am at a local shooting range on some days) and light pollution from that court and their new floodlights for the outside gym area, in recent months they have regularly decided to turn the woods into a disco with thumping music that can be heard throughout the area while they run outdoor classes.

It is such a shame that the club is now choosing to put a handful of people exercising ahead of the Harrogate community and wildlife by acting in such an anti-social manner. One of the purposes of Yorkshire Agricultural Society is to protect the environment but in the last year they seemed to have dropped that aim whenever they or one of their tenants can make some extra money.  This is very sad as the society has been a stalwart for Harrogate for many years.

I just hope someone can save this ancient woodland before its character is destroyed forever.

Tim Johnson, Harrogate


Ripon Cathedral urged to bring ‘sham of a proposal’ to halt

This letter was sent to a member of North Yorkshire Council after plans to develop an annexe near Ripon Cathedral were halted. We have covered the ongoing saga extensively

We, the undersigned, must reiterate our strong objections to the current delay from the cathedral and ask that you intervene to end this sham of a ‘public consultation’, which consists of: no significant changes to the original submission; newly formatted leaflets with no new information; 70% of ‘drop ins’ during the working day and a lack of record keeping from cathedral staff of comments and suggestions by the public.

We feel that we must question the validity of this ‘pause’ when answers which are received on fundamentally important matters such as the ‘300 trees’ and where they are going to be planted are conflicting. For the majority of 2023, the cathedral claimed that this off-site area would be ‘at Studley’, this changed in 2024 to ‘near Studley’ and now the cathedral state ‘outside the city.’ This is a core pillar in the cathedral’s mitigation plans and there is no evidence of this- indeed the cathedral communications team told me today that the evidence of this planting would not be forthcoming and that:

‘Regarding the off-site land for planting trees: there is an agreement which is between the private landowner and the cathedral and is a private matter.’

This is in direct contradiction to the position from November 2023, when they stated that this evidence would go into the public domain ‘at the appropriate time’.

The cathedral states there is a ‘40 -year-management plan in place.’ For this to be valid, it needs to be covered by a Section 106 agreement, setting out specific locations and specific actions and also giving a cash value for the planting and the cost of the management plan. The cathedral has failed to do this.

As this ‘off-site planting’ is supposed to be compensation to the people of Ripon for the trees felled at Minster Gardens, it is not a private matter, but very much a matter of public interest. This is a material consideration to the proposal.

We urge you to use your powers to intervene and bring this sham of a proposal to a halt before further embarrassment is caused to the city of Ripon.

With best wishes,

Jenni Holman, Andrew Burns, Pat Waterfall, Kevin Hill, Brian McHugh, Valerie Sheldon, Helen M Smith — Ripon


Rewilding the Stray would ‘give back what we have stolen’ from nature

The next two letters follow a feature published by the Stray Ferret last weekend. It discussed rewilding the Stray, in Harrogate, and received a huge response.

Let’s encourage wildlife; we’ve destroyed so much of it.

We need to take accountability and give back what we’ve stolen. I would love to see birds, bees and wildflowers.

The Stray isn’t just for us, it’s for our grandchildren and their children. It would be lovely if we could leave a positive legacy.

Maggie Boyd, Harrogate


Time to listen to the King and David Attenborough

I read the article about the idea of introducing wilder areas to The Stray and have some sympathy for people like Judy d’Arcy Thompson and Pam Grant. Change is often difficult when you’ve had to fight to preserve the status quo (more or less) year after year and when so often, change seems just for the sake of it.

However, the suggestions for The Stray are not just for the sake of it and are not even wholesale.  In this case it’s to provide actual benefits to the whole community (and not even just wildlife). For example, you don’t even need ponds (though they would be great); simply re-introducing boggy areas would not only provide homes for some beautiful plants but also insects and other invertebrates which would help provide food for other animals.  But not only that: bogs help soak up excessive water in the environment but also store water in times of drought.  And we know how floods and droughts are hitting the area.

When the King has said “the greatest challenge we face is to reform our relationship with nature, to put sustainability at the heart of our economy and to recognise that the conservation of nature is not a luxury but a necessity”, and David Attenborough, “surely it is our responsibility to do everything within our power to create a planet that provides a home not just for us, but for all life on earth” then surely we need to listen and change what we’re doing?

It’s so many of us doing the same thing over and over again which has led us to where we are now but time is running out.

I would like to suggest it’s time to act differently – and that’s not only individuals but also politicians, organisations, town and building developers, businesses etc.  We need development that is built and developed to actively help biodiversity and the environment – rather than to suppress it or pay lip service to it.

Friedy Luther, Spofforth

Do you have an opinion on the Harrogate district? Email us at [email protected]. Please include your name and approximate location details. Limit your letters to 350 words. We reserve the right to edit letters.