Harrogate Spring Water's bottling plant plans spark 'trees versus plastic' row

Woodland campaigners are preparing for battle in a ‘trees versus plastic’ planning row over greater expansion of one of the country’s best known brands.

The spa town of Harrogate was built on its reputation for healing waters, recommended by Queen Elizabeth’s own physician in the 1600s for its restorative merits.

Over recent years it’s become famous for its waters once again with the boom of Harrogate Spring Water, Britain’s oldest bottled brand which is now shipped globally to much acclaim.

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But the water must be bottled at source and, say business owners after securing extension permission in 2017, the need for greater space has grown alongside its popularity.

Harrogate Spring Water is looking to amend plans for an extension to house its water bottling plant, increasing its size from 4,800sq m to 6,800sq m.

Now, as revised plans detail a greater expansion than originally agreed, campaigners are crowdfunding to maintain a legal challenge at all stages of the debate.

“It’s a simple discussion over trees versus plastic,” said Neil Hind, chairman of the Pinewoods Conservation Trust.

“Our concern is over a loss of green space, a loss of trees, and a displacement of wildlife - we have nature cameras in that area and have seen deer, foxes and badgers. It would have a massive impact.”

Harrogate Spring Water was granted outline permission in 2017 to extend its bottling facility on Harlow Moor Road, alongside a stretch of woodland protected for community use.

Neil Hind of the Pinewood Conservation Group.

The business is hugely important to the town and region’s economy, councillors agreed, and should be afforded the opportunity to grow to potential.

But, following a consultation event in November, Harrogate Spring Water is now seeking to extend these original plans further, with a floorspace rising from 4,800sq m to 6,800sq m.

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The company is “no threat” to the Pinewoods, Harrogate Spring Water chief executive James Cain has stressed, adding that it always aimed to be a good neighbour.

“The land footprint has not changed,” he told The Yorkshire Post. “The amend is to the plant, not to the footprint of the site.

“I’m disappointed they are taking this approach, when actually our business is celebrated by a lot of the town,” he added.

“We’ve got an awful lot of support. We’ve held open public meetings, the feedback was overwhelmingly supportive.”

To fulfil its potential it must extend, Mr Cain said, adding that this would be of benefit not just to the town but to the region.

“We celebrate the town, and what the town is famous for,” he added.

“It brings employment, global recognition, and drives tourism with every bottle sold across the world.

“We are a professional, well run organisation that has given back in many ways and continues to do so,” he said.

“We’ve got great DNA - we are called out for many global awards and an awful lot of good practice.

“We remain committed to doing a great job and to doing the town proud. We do care, as we represent the town every day.”

A Crowd Justice campaign has been launched by the Pinewoods Conservation Group, raising over 20 per cent of its target £5,000 within a matter of days.

The charity, aimed at conserving and maintaining 96 acres of public woodland between the Valley Gardens and Harlow Carr, is fundraising to retain its legal support.

Additionally, after the land was granted ‘asset of community value’ status in 2015 under the Localism Act, the charity wants to ensure this “complex legislation” is fully understood.

“It’s a difficult issue that Harrogate residents should get involved in,” said chairman Neil Hind.