Councillors have thrown their weight behind plans for a new supermarket, hotel, DIY store and business units on the southern edge of Ripon.
The borough council’s planning committee voted unanimously for the Morrisons’ proposals hoping the development will bring more tourists to Ripon and stop shoppers abandoning the city for the recently approved Tesco megastore in Harrogate.
The committee said that it was “minded not to refuse” the application by the supermarket giant, meaning the plans are likely to go ahead unless the Secretary of State calls the case in for a planning inquiry.
Judith Donovan, chairman of the city’s development body GRIP, spoke in favour of the plans and said Ripon desperately needs more visitor accommodation like the new hotel.
“Every study shows Ripon is under-bedded. We are a tourist gem and have three out of top five attractions in the district.”
The city needs to compete with Tesco and make space for new businesses, she added.
“Ripon has a catchment area and Tesco is making a bid for it with its free bus service. It is a much bigger threat with its non-food offer which removes the need for shoppers to go into Ripon.
“Ripon needs this development and all the members of GRIP support it.”
The site already has planning permission for a different scheme extending the supermarket but a planning consultant for Morrisons told the meeting the new proposal will create a better shop, while two national operators are interested in the hotel.
The development will create 660 new jobs and 150 construction jobs as well as protecting 220 existing jobs at the site, the supermarket has confirmed.
The company could also provide a ‘bus hopper’ to Ripon centre, with three hours’ free parking on the site.
At the meeting, some councillors stressed the importance of the hotel element of the plans going ahead.
Coun Stuart Martin, who represents Ripon Minster ward, said it was vital the hotel is built and occupied, and plans for it are not “left behind” as the rest of the scheme progresses.
“This is so critical to the future of Ripon city centre that the hotel has to take priority to partly compensate for the loss of trade to the new supermarket.”
And some city shopkeepers fear for the future of their businesses if the scheme goes ahead.
After the meeting Craig Scorer, who owns Benson’s hardware store, said: “All we are doing is giving people excuses not to come into Ripon rather than reasons to come in.
“I have had a 20 per cent reduction in footfall since parking charges were introduced on the market square in January. This is just going to compound it and make the situation worse.”
Residents of neighbouring Edens Way have also raised objections about plans to alter a bridleway that passes their homes and is set to become part of pedestrian and cycle access plans for the new supermarket.