Urgent – Save Our Outdoors

To Save Our Outdoors, Do This Before Christmas, or lose them!

Green Space Designation Needed Here, Now

Protect Harrogate & Knaresborough’s Special Spaces (REF: NE6: Local Green Space)

I didn’t intend to write anything until after the New Year but sadly this is so urgent, you need to respond by 23 December, and your help is really, really needed, it’s very important so please help. I have been contacted by many folk concerned about areas which have been refused Green Space Designation (GSD), despite being loved and used by Harrogate and Knaresborough citizens for many years, indeed many kindly folk and much Council money has been spent looking after these spaces for what was expected to be perpetuity. Not any more unless you help now. The National Planning Policy Framework introduced the local GSD. It allows communities, through Local District Plans (LDPs), to identify areas they particularly value to be awarded special protection from new development (unless there are exceptional circumstances).

Toby (aged 10) tells us in his words why the park is so important to him.

‘I go to Jacob Smith Park all the time and started going when I was about two or three weeks old. So it is a massive part of my life.  When I am feeling stressed or annoyed, me and the dog just got there and walk it out and come back a lot happier. ‘I love wildlife and we see bats, birds, bugs, squirrels, frogs, bees, butterflies and countless others, and sometimes when the weather is fine we can see so far that we can see the white horse which is a great way to enjoy the walk in the middle of a walk. This is why I love Jacob Smith Park and all its wildlife’

Why is a ten year old so astute when Harrogate Borough Council is so naive? Save these special places for the future. Please!

There are very few sites in the district to my knowledge which have been designated by Harrogate Borough Council (HBC) as Green Spaces. These include:

LGS 25 – Bachelors Field, Bachelor Gardens

LGS 11 – Stonefall Park – the ‘panhandle’ behind the Crematorium

These sites have been refused designation:

LGS 34: Grange Park, behind Pets At Home (conserved by HBC and volunteers since 1986)

LGS 32: Northern Outfall Allotments, Bachelor Gardens (1907 to date). This site is potentially on the Bypass/Relief Road route, making this a green space potentially blogs the inner bypass route. It’s crucial The Northern Outfall Allottments, near the sewerage works, has the protection of a Green Space Designation.

LGS 104: Bilton Fields, Nidd Gorge (43,500 trees planted in Partnership with HBC since 1985). Along each side of The Greenway. This site is potentially on the Bypass/Relief Road route, so it’s crucial it has the protection of a Green Space Designation. No more dog walking, no more cycling, no more wildlife, potentially that’s the outcome if this isn’t designated.

LGS 33: Bilton Triangle (90 acres of so-called Green Lung separating Starbeck and Bilton and stated by successive HBC leaders to be so highly prized as an open space allowing light and air to penetrate these otherwise dense urban areas). This site has been designated for housing and will therefore be serviced by a relief road/bypass.

LGS 28: The Pinewoods Harrogate. Really the Pinewoods are not a green space in the HBC’s blinkered eyes.

LGS22: Harlow Hill Allotments.

For a site be designated a Green Space it needs to fulfil stringent tests of ‘beauty’, ‘tranquillity’, ‘historical value’ and ‘wildlife value.’ The bar has been set very high but achievable because that’s what these places are. So send in your views, clearly listing your reasons and do so en masse because surely public opinion counts.

Keith Wilkinson of Bilton Conservation Group has some sound advice, “The best I can say is that ‘someone’ from each organisation must put together a dispassionate report covering in the most comprehensive detail possible hard facts supporting ‘beauty’, ‘tranquillity’, ‘history’, ‘uniqueness’, ‘public access/amenity’ etc. Photographs, news reports, wildlife reports (solid detail). All that is the basic minimum – as many letters, and individual comments to the Town Plan as possible will be ‘helpful’ but we have been told repeatedly that the core report submitted for each site will be what matters. I’ve got my head down putting a package together for the Bilton and New Park sites – which is keeping me awake at nights – and I know the Pinewoods Group and Allotments Association are doing the same. Letters of support won’t do any harm, but they need to have at their heart a solid core document which nails their colours to the mast. Remember this: if LGS applications fail, sites are vulnerable to development and the next option the Local Authority has is to declare the site an ACV ‘Asset of Community Value’ – in other words ‘if you want it make a bid for it and take on yourselves £X’ – whether this would mean bidding on the open market against open competition I don’t know. Underpinning all this is the fact that Local Authorities have no legal obligation to maintain parks and open spaces and in these days of national austerity are seeking ways of minimising their overheads as their Central Government funding shrinks and their only recourse is to go for expansion to increase their Council Tax Revenue.”

Your Help Urgently needed To Protect the Pinewoods

Neil Hind of The Pinewoods Conservation Group has made a similar plea, he asks that everyone spends 10 minutes to show their support for Green Space Designation. “As you may be aware, the Pinewoods Conservation Group applied for ‘Local Green Space’ designation as part of the Harrogate Council Local Plan process. Because these sites were rejected you won’t find them on the plan, at least I couldn’t find them but they are threatened and needed fighting for. Unfortunately, this was rejected for a number of reasons but mainly insufficient evidence from users on its special nature to the community. We need local residents to input into the consultation to show that the Pinewoods is special to them and should be protected as a green space.” He asks that you consider the following points but not to repeat them verbatim: Why do you visit and use the Pinewoods. It is with families for recreation, dog walking, tree climbing, orienteering etc.

  1. Do you use with any groups and what benefits does this bring?
  2. Do you have picnics within the woods, especially at the new picnic area on Irongate Field?
  3. Do you watch the wildlife within the woods – birds, squirrels or if lucky stoats, deer etc.
  4. Do you attend and enjoy our events – Easter Egg Hunt, Open Day, Bulb Planting etc.

We especially need responses from resident groups, schools, youth groups and any other group users of the Pinewoods. We will be writing to some well-known users but please encourage any groups you are involved with to also write.”

Knaresborough – Jacob Smith Park

LGS 58 Jacob Smith Park Scriven Knaresborough. Jacob Smith Park has been given a Green Space Designation but they still need your help to make the designation a reality. Jo Smalley of Friends of Jacob Smith Park writes, “Thanks to the tremendous backing of individuals and community groups who sent in evidence to HBC, our precious park has got this far. We now need those same individuals and groups and new ones who value the park to submit further comments to express support for the draft GSD. We need to keep working together as a community to maintain momentum so the decision is adopted in the final plan. Please spread the word. The key five areas of recommendation for GSD are beauty, tranquillity, recreational value, historical and wildlife. I would REALLY appreciate individuals and groups making reference to these areas when submitting comments please. The park certainly ticks all these boxes!”

How To Avert This Crisis

Responses can be:

  1. Made online at the council portal via http://consult.harrogate.gov.uk/portal
  2. Via email to planningpolicy@harrogate.gov.uk
  3. Via letter to Planning and Development, Harrogate Council, PO Box 787, Harrogate HG1 9RW

Comments can be made by registering for HBC’s online portal – http://consult.harrogate.gov.uk/portal or alternatively sending them by post to Planning Policy, Planning and Development, P.O. Box 787, Harrogate, HG1 9RW. Please note very carefully, if submitting by post remember to include your full name and address. HBC will not accept anonymous comments or just a name and email address.

Thanks, Your Help Much Appreciated

I appreciate this is a busy time but if you can take 10 minutes to draft a quick note, or better still take longer to write a comprehensive well supported letter, it will be appreciated and your green spaces will remain green, hopefully for our kids and our special wildlife to enjoy for ever! Thanks ever so much.


Blog Update


A number of you kindly folk keep asking me how I am and wished me well so here’s an update. My operation lasted an unbelievable 2.5 hours and afterwards I was in some considerable pain which was of course dealt with by pain killers, sadly I had a none too good experience with the pain killers which it took about a month to discover was a problem. Since changing pain killers I have been making slow but definite improvement and now manage short was each day, during which I have enjoyed kestrel, red kite and buzzard along with redwing, fieldfare and yellowhammer. Anyway I hope to start writing my blog again but this may not be until after the New Year now. Until my operation I have either written my newspaper column or blog every week, without fail, for 21 years so I reckon a break is in order. I hope you agree.

In the mean time please do email me if you have any queries and especially over the holiday period do send in your questions, photos and sightings so I can start again with a bang in the New Year. For those of you who have contacted e and haven’t received a reply, I hope you will accept my apologies. Do contact me again and I will try to reply to everyone from now on.

Finally if I don’t get round to starting my blog again before the holidays, may I wish everyone a great Christmas and especially under the current circumstances, a prosperous New Year.redwing-nigel-heptinstall


My apologies if you received this by email and not by blind copy, very sorry.