A proposal to build 75 homes on Ripon’s abandoned auction mart site remains in limbo after councillors rejected the scheme amid safety concerns during a heated debate.
Because the planning committee, which met on Tuesday, went against the planning officer’s recommendation to approve the scheme by Ripon Property Developments Ltd, the proposal will now be considered by Harrogate Borough Council’s planning referral committee which will decide whether to uphold the decision or back the officer.
Among those taking part in the debate was the Mayor of Ripon, Coun Mick Stanley, who urged councillors to dismiss the plans – which also include demolition of the former Station inn – over the risk of gypsum subsidence causing ground instability.
“My main concern is the stability. I urge you to throw out this application as there is insufficient evidence that development can be safe,” said Coun Stanley. “Why has there been no development on the site for the past 300 years? Could it be that our ancestors knew it was unstable?
“I don’t think any development should take place on that site because it is unsafe for building. I don’t think any insurer is going to insure any of those houses built at that site.”
But the application did receive support from other members, including Coun Margaret Atkinson (Con, Kirkby Malzeard), who argued for the plans on aesthetic grounds.
“The old auction mart is rather an eyesore as you approach Ripon,” she said.
“It’s time it was tidied up.”
During the debate, members of the public in attendance heckled those speaking on behalf of the developers.
Committee members heard from Graham Turner, a chartered engineer, who said: “There is a consensus among professionals that there are parts of the site which shouldn’t be developed.
“But there are parts which can be. The pub has been there for 100 years –that is proof it can have some building.”
But the risks posed were too great for most councillors.
Coun Andrew Goss (Lib Dem, Woodfield) said: “It is not worth risking lives building houses on this site.”
A motion by Coun Stuart Martin (Con, Ripon Minster) to refuse the plan was backed 11-to-2 in a vote.
“The site is an eyesore, it does need to be tidied up but I have not been convinced these plans can be done in a safe manner,” said Coun Martin.