COLUMN: Civic Society with David Winpenny

Kirkgate ' What do we do about traffic in our medieval streets? (S)
Kirkgate ' What do we do about traffic in our medieval streets? (S)

With the launch of the consultation on Ripon’s City Plan on Thursday, David takes a look at how you can have your say on the future development of the city:

Tell us what you want, what you really, really want.

That may have brought you up short – this column isn’t usually up to quoting popular music. But the quotation seems particularly apposite this week, when the consultation on Ripon’s City Plan is about to begin.

You have probably already heard about the City Plan. It’s part of a new scheme by the Government to give local areas the power to have a say in their own planning, and to influence how their local authorities deal with matters of planning. What is now being encouraged is the preparation of what are nationally known as Neighbourhood Plans – but as Ripon is a city, we are proud to call ours a City Plan.

One of the first hoops that had to be jumped through to set up the process of putting together our plan was to decide on the area that it covered. This necessitated a consultation of its own by Harrogate Borough Council to ensure that what was proposed made sense to the people who may be affected by it.

The area that the city decided it would take for its plan was – the city. The Ripon city boundary makes the most sense for the city – though it is recognised that adjoining parishes, including Littlethorpe, Bishop Monkton and Sharow, could all be affected by what is proposed for Ripon and should be kept in the picture.

Now the area has been approved, the committee that is taking the City Plan forward – which includes Ripon City Council and representatives of various organisations, including the Civic Society, under the chairmanship of former (and future) Mayor Coun Mick Stanley – will this week begin the consultation with local people.

From now until June everyone is being given the opportunity to have their say on “Making Ripon a Better Place”.

How is this being done? First, almost 15,000 local households will receive through their letterbox, delivered with the free InTouch publication, a colourful leaflet setting out areas that the City Plan could attempt to tackle and a series of questions for the community to consider.

There are six areas being looked at. The first is “Getting around”. And this immediately brings up a number of popular Ripon chestnuts: Is Ripon able to cope with cars? Where should we park? Can we improve the bus service, and get it going to more places more often? Why isn’t there better provision for cycling? Can we have our railway back, please? But there may be other, perhaps more vital questions than these. So the questionnaire asks, “How might we improve getting around?”.

“Earning and Spending” follows – the aim is to encourage investment in the city and spending, too. This will help to give Ripon a sustainable economy. So the question here is, “What would boost local jobs and encourage spending in Ripon?”.

Next, environmental matters. We all want clean air, uncluttered streets, unpolluted rivers and green space. The City Plan consultation therefore asks, “How can we sustain an attractive environment?”. And linked with that, perhaps, is the fourth element, labelled “Healthy Ripon”. This category includes not just health services but access to opportunities for leisure activities and enjoyment, and to voluntary groups and facilities that help to make us all live healthier and more enjoyable lives.

So, the question asks, ‘“What would encourage a healthy, active and supportive local community?”.

There are two more categories. “Living and Learning” talks of the city growing and changing, and of the challenges that poses.

It encompasses considerations of where new housing might go and whether we need new schools and colleges.

Where are the best places for new houses – and how does the recent closure of the Cathedral Choir School and the new announcement of the departure of the Army from Claro Barracks affect those considerations?

And, finally, “Meeting and Greeting”. Ripon’s history and traditions, its historic buildings and cultural and social life are all attractive to visitors and play a major part in the life of many residents.

We need to make the most of them, so, we are asked, “How can Ripon’s buildings, streets and open places be better used to promote local pride and to provide a welcome for visitors?”.

The group that has formulated these questions is keen to stress that this is a genuine consultation – there are no right or wrong answers!

All responses will be carefully considered as part of the process of formulating the plan.

Of course, it is as well if your suggestions are practicable; much as some might want an international airport or a shopping mall the size of the new Trinity Leeds, that is probably beyond likelihood!

This questionnaire is not the only way that your views can be made known. There will be consultation via social media and website, by public and private meetings and in other ways.

It is important that as wide a cross-section of the city – and those of you beyond the city that have its well-being at heart –responds to the consultation.

And after the consultation, want happens? The City Plan will be formulated and then it will be inspected by an independent examiner to make sure it complies with all the legal and other requirements.

And then it’s your turn again! There will be a referendum of voters who live within the city boundary, to approve the final plan. More of that later. For now, it’s over to you.

Give your views and help set the agenda for Ripon’s future. Then you could get what you – and Ripon – what you really, really want!

To contribute to the City Plan consultation:

Complete the on-line survey at:

Email your views to:

Write to: Ripon City Plan, Town Hall, Ripon, HG4 1DD.