It's an idea that's been brewing behind the scenes for more than two years, and now the group of sports clubs who have been campaigning to drive forward ambitious plans for a Ripon sports village, have shared their vision for the future with the Ripon Gazette.
Retaining the sports fields at Claro Barracks to bring together several different sports disciplines in Ripon (including football, netball and cycling), is a policy that's contained in the Ripon City Plan, which goes to referendum in just over two weeks' time on February 14.
If Ripon residents support the City Plan, it will be referred to by Harrogate Borough Council when considering planning applications for the Ripon parish.
The Ripon Sports Consortium - made up of the Ripon Runners, Moonglu Cycling Club, Ripon Triathlon NYP, Ripon City AFC Ripon City Panthers JFC, and Ripon City Netball Club - has made submissions to the Harrogate Local Plan and Ripon City Plan to set out their views on why Claro Barracks would be an ideal location to develop leading sports facilities in Ripon, North Yorkshire, and the wider region.
The Ripon Gazette understands that more than 1,000 homes could be built across Ripon's army barrack sites, under emerging plans from the Ministry of Defence. Harrogate Borough Council confirmed that they are aware of this figure, which exceeds the number of homes set out in their draft Local Plan.
A submission from the Ripon Sports Consortium states that only offering up Claro Barracks for mixed use development omits recognition of the precedent of having sports grounds established on the site.
Their submission reads: "The south western bank of land on this site, along Clotherholme Road, has always been of recreational use and is noted on all plans as “sports field” and “sports ground.' It has been used by the barracks for their own personal use, but is inherently sporting grounds within the city of Ripon and it is our proposal that it should always remain as such, with or without the overriding presence of the barracks.
"The Harrogate Local Plan evidence base and up-to-date local evidence clearly demonstrates that there is a significant shortfall in outdoor sports facilities in Ripon with no reserve for growth. New site provision is required."
Ripon Sports Consortium member Christopher Bennett, who has been a member of Ripon Runners since 1986, and was Chairman for five years, said these kind of facilities would have an immeasurable impact on Ripon's sports communities.
He said: "Growing Ripon’s profile would come about if we had facilities not available in the rest of the county. For example, there is not a public access athletic track in North Yorkshire, excluding the city of York, so those wishing to train on one have to travel to army land in Catterick. Ripon has a growing cycling community, but they need a track - not a velodrome, just a track suitable for cyclocross and junior cycling.
"Ripon could become a major Yorkshire, and maybe national, centre for all things cycling as it is well placed in the centre of the county. It would fit with the World Cycling Championships.
"And at present, Ripon City AFC fields two men’s and two women’s teams and also support junior football and rugby with only one pitch."
He added: "RCJFC, the footballing club for junior footballers, has to play on Hell Wath with its cyclists, dog walkers and other impediments to establishing proper pitches. All the equipment and goal posts are required to be packed up and stored each week, and the juniors are too far away from the senior team.
"Ripon Runners has no facilities of its own. With 230 members, we share a clubhouse but have no track or storage facilities. The clubhouse is courtesy of Ripon Rugby Club.
"The importance of sport is no more or less in Ripon than it is in any other Yorkshire town or city. The importance of good sports facilities to me, as a retired family doctor, is giving easy access for physical, outdoor activity to as many people as possible."
Voicing his support for the Ripon City Plan, Christopher said: "Ripon residents should support the Ripon plan, because within it are many well thought out proposals and if it is accepted, Harrogate Borough Council must take it into account when formulating planning policy."
The 'Gazette has approached Harrogate Borough Council for comment regarding Ripon Sports Consortium's proposals.
Vision for the sports village - what it would mean, and what it would include if it went ahead (according to the Ripon Sports Consortium's submission):
- A new home- somewhere the clubs can call their own, developing and expanding alongside other clubs.
- A venue that places Ripon on the map as a cycling epicentre for the future with junior development squads and regional talent squads.
- A whole inclusive club location.
- Intertwined and shared facilities, including the following sporting requirements, "all of which are achievable within the existing sports grounds":
- 400m running track - floodlit
- Long “trail” route contoured to the lie of the land with challenging hills and terrain
- 1.6Km cycling route with six more wide track surface - floodlit
- Added irregular routes for CX and MTB to include sand pits, cobbles and gravel BMX track
- Full-size senior football pitch - 1st team - floodlit
- Additional full-size football pitch x three 4G
- Football pitch/netball courts/athletic training area/grass running track
- 3 x 9 aside pitch
- 4 x 7 aside pitch
- 2 x 5 aside pitch
Associated facilities of clubhouses and indoor facilities gained from the adaption of existing sporting buildings:
- Changing facilities that relate to all disciplines and age groups
- Clubhouse that accommodates all disciplines and social needs
- Clubhouse bar and event areas
- Clubhouse trophy and meeting rooms, with one communal function room expansion and party room facilities that permit revenue for the sports village and wider community kit
- Sports therapy rooms
- Fitness suite for all sports disciplines
- Indoor sports hall for all disciplines
- Bike racks and storage
- Washing facilities for kit and bikes
Read more of the 'Gazette's coverage of the Ripon City Plan: