Tree campaigner accuses Harrogate Spring Water of ‘greenwash’
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Last updated Nov 16, 2023
Sarah Gibbs protesting against Harrogate Spring Water's planned expansion
Sarah Gibbs during one of her protests.

Tree campaigner Sarah Gibbs has described Harrogate Spring Water‘s plans to plant 1,200 trees to offset the loss of 450 others as “greenwash”.

The company revealed yesterday it will create a two-acre community woodland if it is granted permission to expand its bottling plant on Harlow Moor Road in Harrogate.

Expanding the plant would involve felling 450 trees in adjoining Rotary Wood, including some planted by schoolchildren in the 2000s.

But Ms Gibbs, who frequently dons a tree costume as part of her campaign to save Rotary Wood, said “the idea that you can offset this destruction is ludicrous”.

Harrogate Spring Water said its plans, which would create 50 jobs, would see three trees replace each one lost and “deliver a 10% increase in biodiversity levels in the area”. It is also identifying other locations in Harrogate to plant an extra 1,500 trees.

How the site would look.

But Ms Gibbs said:

“A sapling is not adequate compensation for the loss of a mature tree.

“It’s a misconception to say they can be replaced like this. It’s incorrect in terms of the wider impact on ecology.

“Clearly they have not listened to the public. They should leave the trees alone. They were planted by children to avert a climate crisis. This is ludicrous greenwash and I hope North Yorkshire Council steps in and says ‘no’.”

Harrogate Spring Water, which is part of French multinational Danone, secured outline planning permission in 2017, which means the principle of development has been established.

But it still requires North Yorkshire Council to approve a reserved matters application that agrees the details of the scheme.

A previous application by Harrogate Spring Water was rejected by councillors in January 2021.

Managing director Richard Hall said yesterday the company had listened to concerns because the proposed new woodland would, unlike previous plans, be open to the public.

But Ms Gibbs said:

“26,000 single-use plastic bottles an hour, shipped globally. That’s what they produce now. If this development goes ahead this number will increase. Global shipment means lorries, planes will increase, CO2 will increase, water extraction will increase. The only thing that will increase that they care about, is profit margins.

“Who’s to say years down the line they won’t want to expand again and destroy more of our beautiful pinewoods, and planet.

“We need less plastic. We need to protect our existing woodland.”


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