A planning application by Harrogate Spring Water Limited to extend its bottling plant could herald the near eradication of The Rotary Wood, a community area instigated and financed by Harrogate Rotary back in 2005.
Danone, the French food conglomerate, bought a majority stake in Harrogate Spring Water last year.
The two companies are planning to expand an existing bottled water production site onto an adjacent four-acre area of woodland in the North Yorkshire spa town.
The Rotary Wood project commemorated the centenary of Rotary International and was supported by the local community, with school children involved in planting the new wood.
The Rotary Wood project commemorated the centenary of Rotary International and was supported by the local community, with school children involved in planting the new wood.”
Rotary Wood hosts a variety of wildlife, including wild orchids and sits alongside Harrogate’s 96-acre Pinewoods forest.
Harrogate Spring Water was granted outline planning permission to expand its bottling site in 2017 – a decision that was opposed by the town’s green groups.
However, in 2019, the company submitted a revised application for a site that is around 40 per cent larger than the one originally proposed.
Danone joined Harrogate Spring Water in seeking permission for expansion after buying a majority stake in the firm in 2020.
The Rotary club believes that any removal of the 15-year-old Rotary Wood should be fully replaced.
The Rotary club believes that any removal of the 15-year-old Rotary Wood should be fully replaced.”
This would fall in line with the Harrogate Borough Council’s existing policy for the loss of biodiversity, carbon capture and community access in North Yorkshire.
President of the Rotary Club of Harrogate, Alistair Ratcliffe, pointed out that the wood is more than simply a space which thousands of people have enjoyed over the years.
He said: “Rotary Wood epitomises Rotary’s on-going service to the community and environment.
“Above all, the hopes, dreams and labours of those who planted it for future generations would be destroyed.
“The loss of a 15-year-old wood and amenity space is more significant than just the loss of ecology as it includes the loss of recreation and health benefits that the wood provides.”
In accordance with current legislation, the land cannot be disposed of without providing compensation which offers a net gain to the community.
To compensate for cutting down the majority of Rotary Wood, Danone and Harrogate Spring Water have offered to replant the trees lost on another site in Harrogate.
“It is important to say that we are committed to replacing the trees that we remove on a minimum two for one basis and to looking after these trees for a minimum of 30 years,” said Rob Pickering, a senior representative for Harrogate Spring Water.
Alistair Ratcliffe said the club would fight the plan by Harrogate Spring Water Ltd.
The loss of a 15-year-old wood and amenity space is more significant than just the loss of ecology as it includes the loss of recreation and health benefits that the wood provides.”
He said: “The Rotary Club of Harrogate is appealing to councillors to defer the reserved matters until a permanent site can be found to create a new asset of community value as we believe the proposed temporary leased site with no public access is wholly unsatisfactory.
“Current proposals do not provide sufficient space to plant enough trees as a permanent solution for both biodiversity and public access.”
Harrogate Council will decide on whether to approve Danone and Harrogate Spring Water’s amended planning application later this month on January 26th.
“What we’re really hoping for is on January 26th the councillors at Harrogate Council reject this proposed amendment,” Neil Hinds, chair of the Pinewoods Conservation Group, a charity responsible for the conservation of the Pinewoods Forest, told The Independent.
“We’ve been against this expansion since it was first put forward. And now we are also objecting the plans for the larger extension, which will see most of the area that we know as Rotary Wood to disappear.
“It will have a massive impact on the ecology of that area. We’ve had nature cameras in there over the past few years so we know what’s in there.
“There’s lots of animal life in there. There are wild orchids. And all of that is under threat.”