Exclusive: Ripon Cathedral ‘pauses’ controversial annexe planning application
Last updated Jan 17, 2024
A computer generated image of the proposed building.

Ripon Cathedral is to pause its controversial annexe planning application following a request by city councillor Andrew Williams.

The proposed £6 million development, which would house a refectory, song school, shop and Changing Places Toilet, will be put on hold ‘for a number of months’  to allow further consultation with all interested parties.

These include campaigners with a 2,100-name petition raised in a bid to save a veteran beech and 10 other mature trees from being cut down to make way for the two-storey standalone building on Minster Gardens — a green public open space currently owned by North Yorkshire Council.

A statement issued this afternoon, on behalf of the Dean of Ripon the Very Revd John Dobson and the Cathedral Chapter said:

“Following continued and constructive collaboration with planners from North Yorkshire Council, Ripon Cathedral has taken the decision to pause the planning application for its proposed north side development for a number of months.

“During this period, there will be opportunities for additional consultation, where we will once again be able to listen to comments and concerns from the people of Ripon and the region in relation to the proposed new building. We will also continue to work constructively with the planners and other key stakeholders.

“We hope that this will allow us to move forward in a way that considers people’s genuine concerns and takes in the opinions of stakeholders, whilst allowing us to deliver the amenities that the cathedral so desperately needs along with the benefits the building will bring to the city and region.

“The exhibition of the project remains in the cathedral and further opportunities for informed feedback will be advertised on our social media channels and website in due course.”

A petition by Ripon resident and save our trees campaigner Jenni Holman has already been signed by 2,100 people, some of whom attended this peaceful protest on November 25.

Cllr Williams approached the cathedral seeking a three-month pause following a vote taken last month by city councillors to withdraw its ‘in principle’ support for the  scheme and formally object to the proposal.

The vote to object was carried by four votes to three at the December 11 meeting. Councillors Williams and Barbara Brodigan, who sit on North Yorkshire Council’s Skipton and Ripon area constituency committee planning committee, absented themselves from the meeting and did not take part in the debate that preceded the vote.

Cllr Williams told the Stray Ferret:

“As the divisional member for North Yorkshire Council I indicated in February last year that I have a duty to represent those on both sides of the issue.

“As a result, I asked the cathedral to pause their application to allow them time to assess fully the objections raised to their current proposals.

“This will allow time for a site meeting to take place with officers from North Yorkshire Council planning and the applicant to see whether it is possible to meet the core objectives of the cathedral whilst addressing the concerns raised to the current plans.”

The veteran Beech tree.

He added:

“If after further deliberations have taken place it does prove possible for Ripon Cathedral to bring forward new proposals, these should be the subject of widespread public consultation and I have already suggested to the Dean that such public consultation would be best undertaken away from the cathedral itself.

“I hope that all sides of this debate will now take a step back and look at how best Ripon can move forward together as a community. In my view it is vital that Ripon has a viable and sustainable cathedral as I believe do the vast majority of the objectors to the current proposals.

“I would like to make it clear that I am not expressing any view on the merits of the current planning application, simply seeking to see if common ground can be found between everyone.”

The cathedral said in a statement the Dean was “pleased that Cllr Williams’ views were consistent with the thoughts of Chapter”, adding it had been “listening to many voices and working constructively with planners”. It added:

“It is as a result of all of this that the cathedral reached a decision to engage in renewed consultation before further developments.”