An ambitious bid to revitalise Ripon’s economy has seen a business expert appointed as the city’s development tsar.
Angela Harris, a business adviser and former education manager who has run her own hotel business, is to take on the job of City Development Manager, the city council has announced. She will be at the head of a marketing campaign designed to turn around Ripon’s faltering economy.
Fears over the number of empty shops and the city’s appeal to tourists prompted the move, and the city council raised their precept request to Harrogate Borough Council by a third and set aside £180,000 to fund the scheme for three years.
City Mayor Mick Stanley said the council hopes Ms Harris’s appointment will boost moves to make Ripon North Yorkshire’s “Capital of Culture and City of Celebration”, and make sure the city “realises its full potential”.
He added: “This is not just about Ripon – we are determined to build closer links with both the Harrogate district and the wider Yorkshire region as well.”
Ms Harris’s role will be to market Ripon’s visitor economy and commercial and retail businesses, to develop the city’s existing unique selling points, and build a more robust retail economy.
Her appointment makes her the most senior public servant in Ripon in 40 years, and she will work with all of the city’s organisations, along with Harrogate Borough Council and North Yorkshire County Council.
Ms Harris said: “I hope that I can act as a catalyst and bring together a clear idea of how Ripon should progress.
“The city does need investment and the empty shops do need to be filled, but if we can do this we will attract more visitors and business. There have been different agendas in recent years, but I hope that I will be able to provide a united front for Ripon.”
She said she is impressed by recent efforts to transform the city and wants to lead the drive to make Ripon “the biggest little city in the country”, attracting national and international tourists, retail customers and businesses who can enjoy the area’s landscapes, culture and heritage and contribute to its growth.
Members of the city’s Chamber of Trade and Commerce have welcomed Ms Harris’s appointment, and pledged their support for her work.
A spokesman said: “The appointment of a manager working 24/7 to improve and develop the city is very exciting. We understand she was successful against a very strong team of shortlisted candidates. We are all very much looking forward to Angela focusing all her attention on the challenges facing businesses in Ripon.
“The chamber will be 100 per cent behind Angela as she opens a unique chapter in the success of our city.”
The Greater Ripon Improvement Partnership’s chairman, Judith Donovan, said: “This marks a sea change in how Ripon is going to face the future and move forward. Ripon needs to look towards its own salvation – there is no point moaning about things, and with Angela’s appointment this will provide a clear vision that is vital.”
The new appointment is the latest strand of a marketing campaign for Ripon. It emerged last week that a bid is being submitted to turn the city into one of 12 national pilot areas overseen by retail guru Mary Portas to transform the struggling high street economy.
In December, Ripon’s MP Julian Smith admitted the city’s development had suffered in recent years with a lack of a distinct vision for Ripon.
He held a ‘summit’ at Fountains Abbey to encourage city leaders to come up with a joint plan for the future.
Ms Harris, whose paternal grandmother was born in Ripon, is due to take up her new post on April 12.
She currently lives in Richmond but is making plans to live in Ripon before the job begins.