At the Harrogate District Consensus, we provide an online and anonymous platform which allows Harrogate residents to explore contentious issues and, ideally, to solve them. In a few months we have facilitated over 100,000 votes. Our Pinewoods V Harrogate Spring Water conversation has garnered the most voters, with 661 individuals voting cumulatively over 15,000 times. These voters have created nearly 200 statements for others to vote upon.

The BBC World Service’s People Fixing The World programme have been following our work, which has brought machine-learning political technology to Harrogate. In their show, which airs on 10 August at 3pm, this controversial issue will be explored, together with an examination of how our platform finds consensus.

Although this conversation remains open, preliminary analysis of the data indicates that the overwhelming majority of people in Harrogate are hostile to any changes to Rotary Wood.

We believe that a consensus might still be possible in Harrogate, but that would, in all likelihood, mean that voters would have to agree to the expansion of the factory on the condition that ten to twenty times more trees are planted than those which might be felled. But this is speculative.

We observe that had the factory been producing something other than plastic bottles, then there might have been more support for the proposals. Much of the voters’ anger at these proposals was directed at the use of plastic.