GRIP chairman steps down after three years

Judith Donovan is taking up a post on the board of the Eden Project in Cornwall.

Judith Donovan is taking up a post on the board of the Eden Project in Cornwall.

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Following last week’s web story that Judith Donovan had stepped down as chairman of the Greater Ripon Improvement Partnership (GRIP), Gazette reporter LAURA CONNOR caught up with Mrs Donovan to look back at her time in the role.

Judith Donovan announced her resignation as chairman of GRIP with immediate effect after joining the board of the Eden Project in Cornwall.

This new role along with her London commitments will prevent her being in Ripon sufficient time during the working week to be able to handle the job, she said.

Talking to the Gazette, Mrs Donovan said her greatest achievement was getting GRIP off the ground back in 2009.

“Everyone came together to form a great team,” she said.

Talking about the challenges her successor will face, Mrs Donovan said financial problems may be a stumbling block for the partnership in the future.

“There is very little money around,” she said.

“There is also a challenge in politics nationally and we have to think about how a place like Ripon fits into that.”

But Mrs Donovan said Ripon has a “monumental opportunity” to showcase its ancient charms when the Tour de France passes through the city.

And the best tip she would give her successor would be to “tell the truth”.

“Try and be as open as possible,” she said. “And look out for the best interests of Ripon every moment of every day.”

Ripon City Council confirmed it will be looking to employ another independent chairman within the next month.

GRIP emerged from the old Ripon City Partnership in 2009.

Mrs Donovan was recruited in August 2009 and a board was recruited in November 2009.

An organisation and plan was launched in April 2010 with the aim of driving and delivering Ripon’s development.

The board structure at launch included nine directors, 10 councillors and two others.

Mrs Donovan said her experiences at GRIP have prepared her well to take on her new position in Cornwall.

“I have worked with the local visitor attractions and they have so much to offer in Ripon. It’s taught me about the commitment to community,” she said.

Over the past three years GRIP has supported a number of controversial planning applications, including Costa Coffee and a new Morrisons superstore in the city – despite objections from local businesses and residents. Speaking in favour of the Morrisons plans last year, Mrs Donovan said the city needs a development just like it. She also said every shop is good for Ripon, even if it’s a national coffee chain such as Costa.

“We all tried to do the right thing at the right time,” she told the Gazette.

Mrs Donovan added: “It has been a great privilege and enormous fun to chair GRIP. I like to think we have made a difference to some of the economic outlook and we have certainly cemented many key stakeholder relationships.”