THINGS did not look for the future of Rotary Wood in Harrogate.

Just days before a ‘life or death’ meeting of the planning committee to decide on the woodland’s fate, Harrogate Council’s planning officers recommended that the revised proposal for expansion of the Harrogate Spring Water/Danone plant should be approved by councillors.

And what a mind boggling plan to fell more than half of woodland planted by primary school children from 2005 to 2011 to mitigate climate change. And for what? To expand a water bottling facility that mainly uses plastic bottles.

However, common sense prevailed on 26th January when eight out of 12 councillors on Harrogate Borough Council’s planning committee voted against the plan, with four abstentions.

Rotary Wood was established 15 years ago and so called because it was instigated by the Harrogate Rotary Club. Alistair Ratcliffe, the club’s President said: "We are heartened that Harrogate Borough Council has taken the decision to reject this [revised] application and that any further planned destruction of the Rotary Wood will be avoided.

READ MORE: Woodland planted by children to get the chop for even more plastic bottles?

Jemima Parker, chair of Zero Carbon Harrogate, said: "This is a pivotal decision by the Harrogate Borough Council Planning Committee. Zero Carbon Harrogate are delighted that the councillors clearly acknowledged that the world has changed. We are in a biodiversity and climate crisis, we cannot go on with business as usual. They have creatively used the planning legislation to signal that Harrogate District is taking its commitment to zero carbon emissions seriously. We look forward to continuing to work with them to continue to bring the benefits of a green economy to Harrogate."

Hannah Corlett, press officer of Harrogate & District Green Party, said: "The party will be working on how we move forward on this, including how we deal with the environmental issues we are facing as a whole so expect more to follow-up. We are, of course, really pleased that the decision to enlarge the original factory extension has been rejected. Well done to everyone for their hard work raising awareness of this local issue.

"We are also grateful for members of the planning committee in representing the people and the environment, not least Councillor Jim Clark’s remark that “this is where the battle for the planet is going to be fought” and making Harrogate a world leader – not of shipping pollution around the world but of environmentally friendly solutions.

"However, there is still the issue of compensation for the original approval. The factory size allowed is 1.9 acres plus a further 2.3 acres of surrounding ‘open space’ which is up for debate as to what trees and aspects of the wood are saved and how this open space is protected. The land will also still need to go through a legal process for the leasing of an Asset of Community Value.

"We now call on Harrogate Spring Water/Danone to work with local groups to find alternative and thorough compensation plans or even further a stronger call for them to take a global lead in rethinking their business plan and look at sustainable ways to develop their business without destroying local wood or exporting plastic pollution."

Authors note:

Carbon emissions and carbon footprints and how these impact on climate are clearly at the very core of the pros and cons of any development which leads to the destruction of established woodland. However, there is an added dimension in this case related to nature of the manufactured product. Throughout, the focus was on the loss of trees and future carbon sequestration, with surprisingly secondary mention of the increased requirement of plastic bottles and where they come from. Trace the roots of a plastic bottle and you will find a thick, dark-coloured, viscous liquid called crude oil, which on distillation produces naptha from which plastic is made. The plastic bottles used to hold portable water and other drinks are typically made from polyethylene terephthalate (PET), because the material is both strong and light.

Spreading and enhancing the Harrogate brand was a point coming across when planning officers recommended that councillors approve revised plans for extension of facilities at the water bottling plant. It would have certainly done that amongst the mountain of plastic waste exported to countries like Malaysia by UK.

Waste exports to Malaysia increased by 81 per cent in the first seven months of 2020, compared to the previous year, with 33,098 tonnes sent to the country, according to a report in Circular, a magazine and media website for resource and waste professionals.

China stopped importing plastic waste in 2018 which is hardly surprising. There had been widespread reports and pictures of carrier bags carrying a well-known UK supermarket brand festooning the branches of winter condition trees lining the streets in parts of the country.