New council chief to spearhead development of ‘culture capital’

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A NORTH Yorkshire council is set to create the most senior public sector role in one of England’s most historic cities in a bid to drive forward enterprise and establish it as the county’s capital of culture.

Ripon City Council will appoint a city development manager in spring as part of a strategy to ensure the city has the greatest possible chance of attracting major funding and new business to counter a deepening economic slump.

The authority has ringfenced £180,000 for the post over three years and the manager’s role will include promoting Ripon and boosting visitors to the city while working towards a more robust retail economy.

It is the most senior appointment in the public sector in the city and the manager will work with a number of organisations in the area, as well as Harrogate Borough Council and North Yorkshire County Council.

It comes after the Conservative MP for Skipton and Ripon, Julian Smith, admitted that Ripon’s development had stuttered in recent years as there had not been a clear vision to drive forward investment.

Speaking to the Yorkshire Post in December, the MP voiced fears that the city could be plunged into a deepening economic crisis unless a more united front was forged to attract millions of pounds of investment.

In an effort to ensure local authorities worked more closely with the private sector, Mr Smith chaired a summit meeting in December involving business leaders, councillors and representatives from leading tourist attractions.

Welcoming the decision to create the new role, the MP praised the city council for taking a major step forward in the drive to boost Ripon’s ailing economy and said it proved citizens had started to work together.

He said: “It’s good that there will be somebody with responsibility for driving Ripon’s economy and can be a point person to move things forward for the city. At the summit I was trying to get all the different bodies in Ripon to work together for the common goal to try and get the economy moving and I think that’s beginning to happen.

“It’s good that the city council is working across party to come up with a more co-ordinated plan. I think that’s a great first step and I would encourage that to continue.

“I think Ripon can be equally as successful if not more successful than Harrogate.”

The summit meeting involved representatives from North Yorkshire County Council, Harrogate Borough Council and Ripon City Council as well as the Greater Ripon Improvement Partnership and the Chamber of Trade and Civic Society. Officials from Ripon Cathedral, Lightwater Valley, Newby Hall and Fountains Abbey were also at the meeting.

Another meeting has been planned for Easter to discuss how the action plan to bolster economic growth is progressing.

Mr Smith said: “At the next summit I will be speaking to organisations to make sure everybody is working with us to move this forward. I think it is still very difficult, trying conditions but hopefully by having a plan and by having partnerships locally and regionally and working much more closely to support this we can ensure we have improvement.”

The MP is currently backing a Government scheme which will see enterprise zones set up in rural areas, as well as rural broadband projects.

He said: “These things are beginning to come to fruition and I think it will be of benefit to the local economy.”

Meanwhile, the city council is waiting to discover if it has been successful in securing funding from Whitehall to develop a Neighbourhood Plan, which will map out Ripon’s future development.

If successful another major task of the development manager, who will be on an annual salary of £40,000, will be to implement the scheme.