THE new Mayor of Ripon says ensuring the city thrives despite the economic gloom hanging over the UK is a top priority for his year in office.
Coun Andrew Williams, pictured, who became Mayor last week, spoke to the Gazette on how Ripon might improve its fortunes and buck the national trend of downturn.
“We shouldn’t be too downbeat because every town centre bears the scars. We just need to accept that’s the state of the British economy and we have to work from here to get out of it,” said Coun Williams, who also served as Mayor in 2007-08.
“We need to encourage as many city residents as possible to shop in Ripon but we also need to appeal to a wider market if we want to draw more businesses into Ripon and keep the ones we’ve already got,”
One issue of concern identified by Coun Williams is reversing the decline in the number of coach parties visiting Ripon.
“I have heard anecdotally that five years ago there were 100 a week visiting – now there are around 30.
“That’s potentially 3,000 people a week who are no longer coming to Ripon. Whether people are spending £5 or £50, it all adds up in terms of the city’s economy.We need to look at why we have lost them and what we can do to bring them back.”
The Mayor said central to his strategy would be working closely with Ripon’s new city manager, Angela Harris, who was due to start her job this week after a broken leg delayed her April start date.
Coun Williams said another major source of potential visitors was the number 36 bus service – which pensioners can travel on for free – bringing people from Harrogate and Leeds.
“Much of our marketing is trying to draw people in from the very local area. It might be we have as much success if we cast our net a little wider.”
The Mayor said Ripon had much which set it apart from other towns, such as the cathedral, canal and market square, with nearby attractions including Lightwater Valley, Newby Hall and Fountains Abbey.
“We’ve got to capitalise on what we’ve got and sell it to our best advantage – I don’t think we’ve done enough of that.”
Coun Williams also said schemes such as the new care home at the former Wheatsheaf site and re-development of the former Abbots building on North Street would improve Ripon through regeneration.
“It’s interesting that’s happening now in Ripon when many think the economy is in recession,” he added.
lSee next week’s edition for Coun Williams’ first Mayor’s Diary column.