Over the last few weeks the people of Harrogate have been engrossed about the issue as to whether Harrogate Spring Water should be allowed to expand their successful bottling plant, which would mean the destruction of Rotary Wood. As the people of Harrogate know, Rotary Wood was planted 20 years ago by local school children. If the council permits the expansion of the plant, then the owners – Danone PLC – have pledged to plant 3 new trees for each tree that is felled. And of course, new jobs will be created – probably around 30.

Our Pinewoods Polis conversation went live in March 2022. At the time of writing, there has been 658 voters, who have voted, cumulatively, in total, 15,507 times. In addition, these 658 voters have created 177 statements for fellow Harrogatonians to vote upon.

This fascinating Polis conversation attracted the interest of the BBC World Service, with their journalist coming to Harrogate to speak with our Andrew Gray about the use of Polis to solve this knotty problem. The same BBC journalist then attended an event run by the Pinewoods Conservation Group. The programme will be aired on the People Fixing The World show.

Recently, news of this Polis conversation was printed in the Stray Ferret. Lead campaigner for Pinewoods Conservation Group, Neil Hind, told the news outlet that:

“We know this is a very emotive subject, so we need a way to gather some more scientific based views from our members, visitors to the Pinewoods and Harrogate residents. This system allows people to agree or disagree with statements but also add new statements to express their own feeling on the subject.

“We hope that this will form a consensus of views and even some new thinking on this issue. We would really encourage people to get involved and make their views known. These views will then be shared with the Harrogate Spring Water and Danone management when we meet and will also be used as part of our submission to the consultation process.”

In addition, the always-ready-to-do-something new – Harrogate Informer – took the brilliant and unusual step of hosting the Polis conversation on their site. Engagement by these two established news outlets helps the people of Harrogate to solve their own problems.

Pleasingly, the Harrogate Advertiser also profiled the Polis conversation, here:

Pinewoods v Spring Water

At the Harrogate District Consensus, our job is not to take sides. Instead, our role is to facilitate conversations about difficult issues.