Harrogate Spring Water boss says larger factory will be good for town, after earlier scheme was opposed by Julia Bradbury
Richard Hall, the new managing director of the firm following its takeover earlier this year by global food and drink firm Danone, said that the planned expansion will be smaller in scale to the plan which was rejected by Harrogate Borough Council last year following widespread opposition in the town.
The new application, provisionally planned to be submitted in the autumn, will be akin to those first proposed in 2017 and Mr Hall has pledged to involve the views of local residents in the process.
Speaking to The Yorkshire Post, he said: “It is not different in the sense that we are still talking about investing in the factory and in the Harrogate brand.
“We think that is good for the local community and the town and obviously as a business we would like to grow the business as well.
“But what is different is that we have looked at the plans for the production facility and we have revised them back to the 2017 scale, so that is a smaller increase in size.
“And we have also looked at how we talk to the local community about the plans and to make sure we don’t lose any community assets through the expansion of the factory .
“We are already talking early to local community groups about their concerns and seeing how we can respond.”
In May, Harrogate Spring Water revealed that it planned to press ahead with a proposal to build an expansion of its site in Harrogate, after an earlier scheme was rejected by councillors following protests from local residents.
Last year, TV presenter Julia Bradbury was among the opponents of proposals to remove more than four acres of woodland to make way for the planned water bottling plant.
The previous application to expand fell foul of residents’ concerns about the impact it would have on local nature zones.
A consultation process is now underway for the new application, with residents invited to attend a showcase at The Crown Hotel from 4pm to 7pm on Wednesday July 13.
When asked if he felt this time the community would support the move, Mr Hall said: “I hope so.
“We are listening right now to properly understand what the concerns are. We do intend to respond to them.
“We have worked with different communities with Volvic and Evian. Of course that is in a different country with a different brand but it is still the same approach which is to work with the local community and we are doing that here as well.”
Danone acquired Harrogate Spring Water in 2020 from its founders the Cain family.
Mr Hall said that, despite the business now being in the hands of a multinational corporation, there were no plans to change the branding at Harrogate and that he was committed to keeping its identity intact.
“I have worked previously for Evian and Volvic, both are single source products tied to the community they come from.
“Harrogate is very similar to that so in that sense I am used to working with a brand linked to a community.
“It is our first investment in Yorkshire and the UK. I can already feel the pride in the brand.”
When asked why Danone acquired Harrogate, Mr Hall said it was down to the prestige and quality of its product and brand.
“We didn’t have premium spring water that was accessing hotels and restaurants and what we call ‘on the go’ which is airports and train stations,” he said.
“Harrogate fits that really nicely. It is premium local mineral water with an established brand linked to Yorkshire. It has a very nice heritage and in an area of the country that is well-known for its natural beauty.
“We think there is lots of opportunity to grow. “Certainly we are interested in expanding the Harrogate Spring Water brand and the Harrogate brand.”
When asked what might change under the new ownership of Danone, he said: “There will be a difference for Harrogate now that it is part of the Danone team because the Harrogate team can access what Danone can offer. That might be expertise around the water source, it could be engineering expertise, it could be marketing expertise.
“We want Harrogate to thrive in the wider Danone community but let the Harrogate team run the business in Yorkshire. We don’t want to take away that brand integrity.”