Tackling ‘crisis’ on Kirkgate

Rachel Harper of T & R Williamson with artist David Stead of David Stead Gallery and David Elsy Chairman of Ripon and District Chamber of Trade and Commerce. Picture : Adrian Murray. (1306186AM1)
Rachel Harper of T & R Williamson with artist David Stead of David Stead Gallery and David Elsy Chairman of Ripon and District Chamber of Trade and Commerce. Picture : Adrian Murray. (1306186AM1)
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A coalition of Ripon businesses, residents and councillors have united to take matters into their own hands and regenerate a historical city-centre street.

A coalition of Ripon businesses, residents and councillors have united to take matters into their own hands and regenerate a historical city-centre street.

Residents and business owners on Kirkgate and Duck Hill have joined forces with Ripon city Coun and hornblower George Pickles, and Ripon Chamber of Trade and Commerce, to launch a ‘Kirkgate Forward’ campaign aimed at cleaning up the iconic street and encouraging trade back into the area.

Secretary of Ripon Chamber of Trade and Commerce and owner of Deli on Duck Hill, Don Grundy, told the Gazette: “Kirkgate has reached a point of crisis. There are now ten empty shops on the street itself and almost all of the units in Ripon Small Shops Arcade on Duck Hill are unoccupied.

“Some areas are falling into dereliction and the street is used as a car park. Direct action must be taken as a matter of urgency to safeguard the livelihoods of Kirkgate’s few remaining traders and the future of the street.”

Mr Grundy has teamed up with businesses on the centuries-old street – including David Stead Gallery, Maison Nemes and Squiffy’s Wine Bar – to clean-up the area with the help of Ripon painting supplier, T & R Williamson, which is providing paint and materials.

“The group will be active clearing up the weeds and detritus which currently blight this beautiful gateway to the cathedral,” Mr Grundy told the Gazette.

Mr Grundy added the project was inspired by the late Dean of Ripon Cathedral, the Very Rev Keith Jukes, who was passionate about reviving the area.

“The Dean was going to take it on as a project,” said Mr Grundy. “I got involved with it because of him and because I wanted to help Keith.”

In addition to sprucing up the street, the Kirkgate Forward team is also hoping to tackle the narrow road’s congestion problems and brighten up the shop fronts, with the help of T & R Williamson’s supplies.

Sales office manager at T & R Willamson, Rachel Harper, said: “We have got a strong loyalty to Ripon and things have been very different in the city for some years now. We want to help bring businesses back.”

And the ultimate aim of the campaign is to pedestrianise Kirkgate and have open-air dining on cobbled street.

David Stead, of David Stead Gallery on Kirkgate, has designed computerised images of how Kirkgate would look with tables and chairs outside the streete’s bars and restaurants.

Mr Stead tweeted that Kirkgate is a “wasted opportunity and a dying street” with cars parked up and down the road and excessive traffic.

And Franco Fantoni, who has owned Primo’s restuarant on Kirkgate for 28 years, said: “Cars parking down here has always been a problem.

“I don’t understand why we don’t have double yellow lines and more prominent signs. But car parking down here is illegal and it’s as simple as that.”

Both Ripon City Council and the Greater Ripon Improvement Partnership (GRIP) have now pledged their support for the campaign – which officially launched at Kirkgate Foward’s first meeting on Tuesday, June 11at the Rafa Club in the city – with the Mayor of Ripon and GRIP chairman Coun Mick Stanley saying he is “supportive of anything that improves Ripon’s economy”.

“We have to look at different ways of reviving the city’s economy,” said Coun Stanley. “The face of the high street is so different nowadays and we need to keep this in mind.”

Coun Stanley praised landlord Ronny Metcalfe, who owns units in Ripon Small Shops Arcade, for renovating his shop fronts.

“It looks absolutely smashing and I urge all landlords of Kirkgate and Duck Hill to do the same,” said Coun Stanley.

- Kirkgate Forward will be meeting for the first of a number of clean-up events on Sunday, June 23 outside David Stead Gallery. For more information, visit: www.kirkgateforward.blogspot.co.uk