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Tree campaigner criticises 'insulting' Harrogate Spring Water expansion plans

A tree campaigner has criticised Harrogate Spring Water's latest application to expand its factory to produce more plastic water bottles.

Tree campaigner criticises 'insulting' Harrogate Spring Water expansion plans A campaigner who previously staged a weekly protest against Harrogate Spring Water dressed as a tree has criticised the company’s latest application to expand its factory to produce more plastic water bottles. Last week, the Danone-owned firm submitted its much-anticipated reserved matters application to North Yorkshire Council for an expansion of its headquarters on Harlow Moor Road. Harrogate Spring Water secured outline planning permission for the scheme in 2017, which remains valid, but the reserved matters stage deals with its appearance, size and crucially — trees. Around 450 trees planted by local schoolchildren in an area of the Pinewoods called Rotary Wood would be chopped down to make way for the expansion. This led to a previous reserved matters application being refused by the council in 2021 amid widespread public opposition and negative attention in the national press. This time, the company hopes to win over critics by planting an additional 1,200 trees on two acres of land next to Rotary Wood and to the rear of the existing Harrogate Spring Water HQ. The firm says a bigger factory will mean it can create 50 new jobs and boost economic output by around £2.3m a year to £6.2m a year. Richard Hall, managing director at Harrogate Spring Water, said he hopes the new woodland will become a “valued resource” for the local community for years to come. But Sarah Gibbs, who staged a weekly vigil outside the council offices in 2021 when the plans were last put forward, said the plans were “insulting”. She added:

“We already have a ‘valued resource’ accessible to the public. We have our 4.25-acre woodland that we planted 20 years ago thinking we’d enjoy the benefits for years to come. "Danone intends to take this from us offering a small strip of land filled with saplings as ‘compensation’. “The Pinewoods, Rotary Wood is at the heart of our community and we have been fighting to keep it safe for over four years now. How long until they intend to expand again? "The community will have no voice whatsoever with land owned by Danone. It’s difficult enough with council land, the people’s land.”
In an interview with the Local Democracy Reporting Service in November, Mr Hall said the company had taken negative comments on board when drawing up the new plans. He said:
“It was our own fault we got some of the negative feedback, not all of it, some of it we may not agree with, but largely we didn’t approach the previous planning application in the best way. "We didn’t bring the local community with us. We hope the community can see we’re a growing business, we’re investing and growing jobs.”
Ms Gibbs has organised a meeting on Thursday (February 15) to discuss how to object to the application. It takes place at Friends Meeting House on Queen Parade at 7pm and anyone is welcome to attend. By Thomas Barrett, Local Democracy Reporter Read more local stories from Your Harrogate here.

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