Road closure plan to protect cathedral

Vehicles make their way around Ripon Cathedral within feet of the building. (S)
Vehicles make their way around Ripon Cathedral within feet of the building. (S)

TRAFFIC could be banned from a busy city centre road in an effort to prevent further damage to Ripon Cathedral.

The cathedral’s governing body, the Chapter, says vibration and exhaust fumes are harming the building and so it will be applying to the highways authority, North Yorkshire County Council, to have Minster Road closed to through-traffic but with access to local homes and businesses retained.

Chapter member Canon Keith Punshon said: “Traffic is clearly damaging the fabric of the building, as our latest five-yearly survey of the cathedral indicates.”

There is already a ban on vehicles weighing over 7.5 tonnes using the road but Canon Punshon said smaller vehicles are causing a problem.

“We wish the foundations were the only problem but the cathedral is built of living, breathing stone, and exhaust fumes have taken their toll on the fabric,” he said.

“Damage is occurring through exhaust pollution metres above ground level caused by all motorised traffic – there is a contrast in the stonework, with degradation more marked on the side of the building that faces the road.”

Canon Punshon said the Chapter would be holding a 12-month public consultation after Easter on the plan before any application is submitted to the county council. He said it would seek the closure on a temporary basis at first to see how it worked before holding further consultations on making the arrangement permanent.

The Chapter has already held a meeting to discuss the idea with a number of interested parties including the police, local authority officers, members of the independent Fabric Advisory Committee, the cathedral architect, residents, and politicians of all parties.

Canon Punshon added: “Ripon Cathedral is the only cathedral in the British Isles, and arguably in Europe, with a main road within 6ft of its fabric. Dating from AD 672, this is one of the most historic buildings in the nation’s heritage and deserves respect and protection.”

It is estimated repairs to the foundations alone will cost millions of pounds but Canon Punshon said protecting the fabric of the building was not the only reason why the application was being considered.

He said: “We believe this will be good for Ripon. Pedestrian areas created around cathedrals have enhanced the environment, increased safety and become magnets for visitors.

“If the precinct is not sliced through by a main road the whole quality of the experience will be enhanced and local businesses and the local economy can only benefit.”

The idea is supported by Ripon Civic Society. Its chairman, David Winpenny, said: “We think Minster Road should be closed to through-traffic. Obviously, you need to have access for places down there such as the Old Deanery but we see no reason why it should be a through-route now that we have the bypass as people can easily go round.

“We would want to make sure residents were consulted about it but our firm view is it should happen. The cathedral is an important building and shouldn’t be undermined by passing vehicles.”

• Do you think Minster Road should be closed to through-traffic? Send your views to Ripon Gazette, 5A Kirkgate, Ripon, HG4 1PA or email