The Civic Society column with David Winpenny

This 25-year-old copy of the Ripon Gazette emerged from the Civic Societys archives.
This 25-year-old copy of the Ripon Gazette emerged from the Civic Societys archives.

Glaciers are said to take years to bring to the surface anything that has fallen on to them and been buried. Only when the glacier’s moving and melting have reached a certain point will its secrets come to the surface again.

The same can be true of archive material. For many years, paperwork lies in boxes or cabinets, in dusty piles or in purpose-built muniment rooms, and will suddenly make its presence known – often as a distraction when something else is being sought.

The roundabout and the high bridge over the canal were part of the new bypass plans. (Copyright - David Winpenny)

The roundabout and the high bridge over the canal were part of the new bypass plans. (Copyright - David Winpenny)

So it should have come as no surprise that from among the volumes of paperwork that Ripon Civic Society has acquired over almost 50 years, a copy of the ‘Ripon Gazette and Boroughbridge Herald’ from Friday 21 February 1992 should pop out. It was presumably included among the paperwork because of its interesting contents.

The main headline of the paper that day says ‘Ripon bypass – all systems go’. The story tells its readers that ‘Company and county council representatives last night reached an eleventh-hour agreement on the Ripon bypass route. After more than 48 hours of detailed talks, counsel for Wolseley Centers announced a compromise had been agreed with the county council which would remove the firm’s objections to the route of the road.’

The compromise meant that Wolseley would retain enough land to expand.

There was also agreement on the high-level crossing of the canal, which would open it up to restoration. The newspaper noted, though, that there were objections to this from ‘Ripon’s largest employer, Hermann’s Poultry, formerly known as Buxted.’ Mrs Shirley Duke, the firm’s company secretary, is reported to have said that ‘Security will be compromised due to the height of the road, allowing visibility.’ She said that animal liberators had attached other sites owned by the group.

The canal basin in Ripon; the new houses planned for in the blueprint shown in the Gazette in 1992. (Copyright - David Winpenny)

The canal basin in Ripon; the new houses planned for in the blueprint shown in the Gazette in 1992. (Copyright - David Winpenny)

A ‘Special Feature’ on pages 5a and 5b detailed the agreement with Wolseley. It also printed a birds-eye picture of the city with the caption ‘An aeriel view of one of the most traffic choked cities in the nation – Ripon’.

Above it, there were quotes from some of those who spoke or gave written evidence to the inspector hearing the case. They included the then city MP David Curry, who said ‘Ripon could be one of the most attractive and go-ahead market towns in North Yorkshire. The bypass really is the key to unlocking Ripon’s potential.’

The Mayor of Ripon, Cllr Bob Britton, said: ‘The removal of this volume of traffic is essential for the central revitalisation of our city.’

The Environment Forum Chairman, Nigel Rawlinson (now President of Ripon Civic Society), said: ‘It would be intolerable if the opportunity to solve Ripon’s greatest problem were lost, perhaps for several years, through objections based on relatively minor details.’

His words were echoed by Ted Pearson from the Civic Society, who said: ‘We believe the Society reflects public feeling in the city pressing for the urgent need for a bypass. In a few hours 1,500 signatures were collected in support of the proposal.’

On the opposite page there was a blue-print for the revitalisation of the canal basin; below it, Michael Hutchinson outlined the vision. ‘The first priority is to restore the old warehouse buildings and the cottage. . . The restored warehouse is intended to form a café overlooking the canal basin for those visiting the basin, with the first-floor being developed into a museum.’

The bypass and the canal were not the only contentious planning issues highlighted in this edition of the ‘Ripon Gazette’. Also on the front page was a headline ‘Service station – crunch talks’. The story noted that officers were recommending that Harrogate Council approve an application to build ‘a 30-acre lorry park south-west of the A1 at Dishforth interchange.’ The council’s area planning sub-committee had voted the week before to reject the proposal, fearing HGV drivers would use the narrow Sharow Lane as a short-cut to Ripon.

The story also reported that ‘Dishforth and Rainton residents are currently awaiting the reopening in July of a public inquiry into another service station application. . . for a site north-east of Dishforth interchange.’

And at the bottom of the page another portentous headline announced ‘D-Day for second city superstore’. Noting that ‘Last year, outline planning permission was granted for Safeways and Wright Properties to build an out-of-town supermarket to the south of the city’, the ‘Gazette’ now reported that ‘An application to build a Morrison’s supermarket on the outskirts of Ripon looked set to be thwarted last night as planning chiefs were recommended to reject the scheme.

‘A report to Harrogate Council’s full planning committee. . . said that the Magdalens Road development would seriously weaken the viability and vitality of shopping in the city centre. The 69,000 square feet development would comprise a food supermarket, petrol filling station and parking for 715 cars.’

Elsewhere in the newspaper there was a report on the repair of Christ the Consoler Church at Skelton-cum-Newby. This Victorian masterpiece had recently been taken over by the Redundant Churches Committee (now the Churches Conservation Trust) as the congregation had moved back to the Georgian church of St Helen’s in the village. The story reported that ‘the move of only half a mile has been a painful one for many of the 20 or so churchgoers, who regarded the church of Christ the Consoler as their own “little cathedral”.’

There was also a report that a ‘Government inspector’ had approved controversial plans for gates at the entrance to Studley Royal park; Harrogate Borough Council’s area planning sub-committee had turned down the National Trust’s application for the gates the previous year, ‘after councillors feared the park would be closed to the public, a claim denied by the Trust’. The inspector made it a condition of his decision that the gate should remain open during daylight hours.

So there was much to read about planning and architectural matters 25 years ago; and perhaps we should not be surprised that many of the issues that were contentious in 1992 continue to rumble on today.