Our Reponse as below.
G Bell Chief Planner
27th March 2017
Dear Mr Bell,
Re: Outline application for the extension to existing bottling facility and associated works with access considered Harrogate Spa Water Limited Harlow Moor Road Harrogate North Yorkshire HG2 0QB
Thank you for your letter 27th Jan 2017 and to agree extending the consultation window for our group. We have now consulted widely with our membership who wish to object to the proposal.
The Pinewoods Conservation Group’s (PCG) aim is to promote the maintenance and conservation of the environment within the Harrogate area and especially the area known as the Pinewoods, situated between the Valley Gardens and Harlow Carr Gardens. As such we cannot support development on any area of the Pinewoods so object to this application. This letter represents the views of many of our 200+ members who have been consulted on this application.
As has been confirmed by Harrogate Council, the area known as Rotary Wood, is part of the Pinewoods known as area 4 in the 2007 to 2027 Harrogate Councils management plan (area 9 in the previous plan). It is also offered additional protection under the Localism Act as a designated “Asset of Community Value” where Rotary Wood is specifically mentioned.
These 4 acres of woodland were planted from 2005 to 2010 by Harrogate Rotary as part of their centenary celebrations. Hundreds of trees, made up from around 70 native and European species, were planted by members of the Rotary with local schools and other groups. Management was formally passed to the Pinewoods Conservation Group in 2015 and the area is now well used and established.
Loss of this woodland area would have a negative impact on the environment and carbon reduction On average, one acre of new forest can sequester about 2.5 tons of carbon annually. Young trees absorb CO2 at a rate of 13 pounds per tree each year. Trees reach their most productive stage of carbon storage at about 10 years at which point they are estimated to absorb 48 pounds of CO2 per year. As such these trees under threat are at their most productive. The area has also seen the spread of wild orchids (Common Spotted Orchids) within the site with over 50 reported at their peak as long with various other plant life.
The current ecological study with the planning application is poor and does not cover the wide range of insect and wildlife within the site, especially during the spring and summer months. A habitat survey was carried out on 20th October between 11am and 12.30pm that we feel does not give a true reflection of the bio-diversity of the site.
We would also challenge some of the reported limitations of the field survey (5.3) as the area is open to the public so a full survey was possible. As such the mainly desktop report should be heavily caveated. Regular users of the Pinewoods will be aware of bats (14 on the survey undertaken by PCG in October 2016), hedgehogs and badgers within the area. A more comprehensive impact study is urgently required.
The site is used daily by walkers and forms a key link between Irongate field & the main woods. It also forms a key corridor for wildlife. A number of pathways have been formed and are well used that will be lost by this development. As such a key area of green space will be lost forever to Harrogate residents and the wide range of wildlife it supports.
We would encourage the planning committee to visit the site if consideration was being given to approving the application. We have included in appendix A several photographs to show the protentional lost trees and green space. The PCG would be happy to host such a visit.
Should the planning committee be mindful to prioritise business development over the considerable conservation and environmental impacts as outlined, we would ask that the following conditions are applied:
· A replacement site of 8 acres is identified, as per the Harrogate Councils Woodland policy, to allow the 2 for 1 planting of replacement trees to adjoin the current woods. (Note: The PCG have already identified the soon to be surplus to requirements Council owned Harlow Hill Nurseries as a possible site)
· As many wild orchids as possible should be transferred to a new location if within the footprint of the new building.
· Any new location must make reference to Harrogate Rotary and their centenary.
· HSWL is asked to make a significant financial compensation (via commuted sums if needed) to allow for new and adjacent lands to be developed to replace the lost trees and biodiverse environment.
· As many mature trees as possible are saved from destruction. A proposal to replant within the site has been mentioned but in our view there is no space for additional trees on that site.
· That an Arboricultural Impact Assessment (AIA) and Tree Protection Plan (TPP) in accordance with BS 5837:2012 is undertaken, with a follow-up Arboricultural Method Statement (AMS), again in accordance with BS 5837:2012.
· Any new build should be built to BREEAM excellent standard. This 'sets best practice standards for performance of buildings through design, specification, construction and operation' hence reducing its impact on the environment.
· The site should be heavily screened and not made a feature.
· No glass walls should be included within the design. A glass wall will reflect trees and encourage birds to try to fly through and risk injury.
· A plain wall with built in swift bricks with a number of owl boxes would be helpful to birds and a more ecological solution.
· The areas of “wet land” are maintained to support a wider range of plant and animal life.
· A water feature to cope with drainage would be better as a wildlife pond with cover for frogs, newts as well as moorhens and ducks.
· Wet mud edges would be good nest building material for house martins again mitigating the sites damage to the local ecology.
· Any water feature must not become entangled with “health and safety issues” that reduce its usefulness to wildlife and biodiversity within the site. Approved Code of Practice L8 implications should also be considered from a wildlife and environmental perspective.
· Any footpaths are kept wild and in themselves do not become features with any non-screening landscaping kept to a minimum.
Whilst we appreciate this is an outline application we feel that a number of questions raised by our members have still to be addressed. These include:
· What percentage of the 4 acres will be built upon and what percentage will remain as public access open space?
· What steps will HSWL undertake to promote bio-diversity within the site?
· How many trees will be removed and replanted within the development? What will be the net loss?
We hope that the planning department look to advise the committee on these points to allow for a fully informed decision to be made.
Finally, planners will be aware of the “Asset of Community Value” (ACV) designation that exists with regards to the site. Our legal advice is that any lease will be viewed as a disposal. As such the legislative requirements commence with the initiation of an Interim Moratorium Period (6 Weeks) with a potential further full Moratorium Period (6 months) should Harrogate Council look to dispose of the site.
The fact that the site is an ACV is a material planning consideration. It is of course down to the Harrogate Council, as local planning authority, to determine what weight should be attached to the ACV designation that our members see as considerable.
Chair of Pinewoods Conservation Group for PCG Committee and Members
Outline application for the extension to existing bottling facility by Harrogate Spa Water Limited on Harlow Moor Road Harrogate North Yorkshire HG2 0QB 16/05254/OUTMAJ
This page summarises the main plans and current questions we have. The page will be updated as and when more information is made available but please share your thoughts.
The proposal is for Harrogate Borough Council to lease 4 acres of The Pinewoods to Harrogate Spa Water Limited (HSWL). HSWL are then planning to build an extension of up to 5,000 square meters to their current plant on this land. The planning application also includes a proposal to create new landscaping and footpaths within the area with a percentage left open for public access.
History of Rotary Wood
The land is owned by Harrogate Council and is known locally as Millennium Wood or Rotary Wood. The 4 acres of new woodland was planted in 2005 by Harrogate Rotary as part of their centenary celebrations. Hundreds of trees, made up from around 70 native and European species were planted by members of the Rotary with local schools and other groups. A stone footpath was also created to make the area more usable, especially within the winter months. A plaque still exists at the woods entrance to commemorate the work undertaken.
Further trees have been planted and maintenance work has been carried out over the last 12 years. In 2015, at the request of Harrogate Rotary, management and supervision of the land was officially passed to Pinewoods Conservation Group.
The land is now a key access point between then main Pinewoods site and the newly developed Irongate Field. It is included in the Harrogate Council Management Plan and referred to as area 9.
Harrogate Spa Water Limited
Water was abstracted and bottled by Harrogate Borough Council until around the Second World War. It was then bottled in August 2000 following the formation of Harrogate Spring Water Ltd. Harrogate Spring Water Ltd has been an important part of the history of the wider area and making a significant contribution to the town in terms of economic benefit as well a promotion on a regional, national and international level. (Extract from HSWL design statement)
The existing facility currently has 3,735 m2 of floor space after it was extended from 1,810 m2 in 2014. The current proposal is for additional buildings between 3,000 to 5,000 m2. It is stated that Harrogate Spring Water can only be bottled at source and any future additional production or bottling facilities can only be built on the existing or adjoining land.
Q: How many employees does HSWL current have and what increase is likely from this expansion?
Q: How much does HSWL current pay per annual as a royalty to HBC and what is this likely to increase to under the new lease?
Q: Does HBC ring fence this income for any specific expenditure?
Protection for the Pinewoods
There are a number of ways in which The Pinewoods are offered some protection.
Asset of Community Value Status
The Pinewoods (including Irongate Field and Rotary Wood) was the first open space in Harrogate to receive an “Asset of Community Value” (ACV) designation under the Localism Act. This designation, given in 2015, gives the land some protection from being sold and needs to be considered as part of any planning application.
HBC have stated that “The fact that it is an ACV does not have any impact on what the owner can do with the land other than if it is to be disposed of. If so then the legislative requirements commence with the initiation of an Interim Moratorium Period (6 Weeks) with a potential further full Moratorium Period (6 months).”
Our own legal advice from a specialist on the Localism Act is contradictory to the above stating “the grant of the lease will be a "relevant disposal" and therefore will trigger a moratorium.”
The fact that it is an ACV is a material planning consideration and it is down to HBC, as local planning authority, to determine what weight should be attached to the ACV designation. This area has been strengthened by recent case law.
Q: Will HBC seek specialist legal advice to resolve the contradictory legal advice?
Local Green Space Designation
As part of the new Harrogate Local Plan, the PCG applied for the Pinewoods footprint to be a “designated local green space”. This would have prevented any development of this area. This application was rejected. As part of the consultation process the PCG appealed this decision and supplied further evidence to support the application. A decision on that appeal is awaited.
Q: Will HBC confirm the outcome of the PCG appeal.
PCG understand that as part of the original planning in 2000 an agreement was signed by council officer Patrick Kilburn and relevant cabinet member of the time, Cllr Jane Blaney, that prevented any further expansion on the plant to allay concerns of local residents.
Q: Will HBC make a copy of this agreement available and confirm any previous restrictions have now been overturned?
Impact on Environment and Bio-Diversity
There is likely to be an impact not only on the specific area in question, but on the adjacent main woods and Irongate field. Those who visit this area will be aware of the many species of birds that use the woods with the new planting in Irongate field improving the wider bio-diversity of the area. There has also been an increase in wild orchids within Rotary Wood with over 50 being identified last summer.
HBCs own principal ecologist, conservation consultancy and arborcultural manager have raised concerns as part of the planning process. Although a habitat survey was carried out as part of the planning process this was undertaken on 20th October between 11am and 12.30pm that we feel would not give a true reflection of the bio-diversity of the site.
We would also challenge some of the reported limitations of the field survey (5.3) as the area is open to the public so a full survey was possible. As such the mainly desktop report should be heavily caveated. Regular users of the Pinewoods will be aware of bats (14 on the survey undertaken by PCG in October 2016), hedgehogs and badgers.
Q: What percentage of the 4 acres will be built upon and what percentage will remain as public access open space?
Q: Will a more detailed and comprehensive survey be undertaken of the proposed development to include the impact on surrounding land?
Q: What steps will HSWL undertake to promote bio-diversity within the site.
Tree and Land Replacement
The proposed development will see the removal of a number semi-mature trees from the site. HBCs own policy is to insist any trees impacted by developments are replaced on a 2 for 1 basis. The number of trees being removed may be dependent on the final agreed design.
Q: Where does HBC plan to replant the lost woodland?
Q: How many trees will be removed and replanted within the development and what will be the net loss?
Q: Will HBC consider a compulsory purchase order of other neighbouring land to replace the land lost by this development?
Terms of Lease
Details of the proposed lease have yet to be released but details have been requested. It is hoped, that if the planning is approved, clauses are included to allow for funds to be made available to maintain the proposed new footpaths and landscaping.
Q: What is the duration and terms of the lease?
Q: What clauses will be added to ensure that HSWL maintain any new paths and landscaping added by this development.
Q: What do HBC propose will happen at the end of the proposed lease?
The PCG committee feels that a proposed development with such an impact on the area it was set up to conserve is not one it can comment on without full consultation with its members. As such it plans to continue to document the full position listing the positives and negatives of the proposal and seek the clarifications as above and allow for further debate.
As part of this process we seek views from members and users of the Pinewoods regarding the proposal and information as outlined. This can be done by commenting on our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/PinewoodsConservationGroup/ or via email to firstname.lastname@example.org. We will look to summarise the positives and negatives of the proposal as we see them as more information is made available.
Annual General Meeting
Our Annual General Meeting is schedule for 7pm on Thu 9th March at the Green Hut, Harrogate. To allow for our members to understand more on the proposals, and for members to debate the proposal, we have invited HSWL and HBC to attend our AGM. Their confirmations are awaited.
A final position statement will be generated following the AGM representing the views of PCG members but there are still a number of questions to be answered as illustrated.
Positives of Proposal
· Creation of new jobs
· Increased recognition of Harrogate as a brand
· Newly maintained footpaths within woodland and Irongate field
Negatives of Proposal
· Expected loss of public green space
· Expected loss of trees and wildlife within the area
· Built on land is likely to be lost forever for public use
Declaration of Interest
HSWL are a corporate member of PCG paying a £25 per year subscription fee.