AN AMBITIOUS bid to turn around the faltering economy in one of England’s oldest cities has reached a landmark with the appointment of a new marketing tsar to oversee the campaign.
Grave concerns over the business, tourism and retail sectors in Ripon have prompted the concerted drive to attract new enterprise and visitors to the city.
Ripon City Council announced yesterday that a new city development manager, Angela Harris, has been appointed to spearhead the marketing push to create more robust economic foundations.
The move marks a watershed as it has created the most senior public sector role in the city since the national overhaul of local government in 1974.
And it is hoped that the new appointment will help Ripon secure the mantle of North Yorkshire’s capital of culture, which will be centred on the city’s long history stretching back more than 1,300 years.
Ms Harris said: “I hope that I can act as a catalyst and bring together a clear idea of how Ripon should progress.
“The city does need investment and the empty shops do need to be filled, but if we can do this we will attract more visitors and business. There have been different agendas in recent years, but I hope that I will be able to provide a united front for Ripon.”
The Mayor of Ripon, Coun Mick Stanley, said the appointment was aimed at ensuring the city “realises its full potential”.
He added: “This is not just about Ripon – we are determined to build closer links with both the Harrogate district and the wider Yorkshire region as well.”
Ripon City Council has ring-fenced £180,000 to pay for the development manager over the next three years, and Ms Harris is due to start on April 12. She has agreed to work a four-day week to maximise the amount of funding for administration costs.
She will be involved in fostering closer links with the private sector as well as Harrogate Borough Council and North Yorkshire County Council. She will also work closely with the new York, North Yorkshire and East Riding Local Enterprise Partnership, which is replacing the regional development agency Yorkshire Forward.
Ms Harris, who lives in Richmond, has an impressive CV which includes working in senior management roles in further education and running her own hotel business. She has also been employed as a principal business adviser for Business Link Yorkshire and has undertaken rural regeneration work with organisations including Yorkshire Forward.
The Greater Ripon Improvement Partnership’s chairman, Judith Donovan, said: “This marks a sea change in how Ripon is going to face the future and move forward. Ripon needs to look towards its own salvation – there is no point moaning about things, and with Angela’s appointment this will provide a clear vision that is vital.”
The new appointment is the latest strand of a marketing campaign for Ripon. It emerged last week that a bid is being submitted to turn the city into one of 12 national pilot areas overseen by retail guru Mary Portas to transform the struggling high street economy.
Skipton and Ripon MP Julian Smith admitted in December that the city’s development has stuttered in recent years because there had not been a clear vision to drive forward investment. A survey revealed that 88 per cent of customers had complained about parking, and concerns were also voiced over a lack of clear signage.
Many visitors have been left without clear directions to some of Ripon’s main tourist spots, such as the city’s cathedral, as well as nearby attractions including the world heritage site of Fountains Abbey.