Ripon Cathedral hits back after 'small group of people' object to new cafe building in historic grounds

The management of Ripon Cathedral has hit back at a ‘small group’ of members of the city’s Civic Society who have vocally objected to the building of a new cafe in the grounds.

The Church has applied for planning permission to build a refectory with choir rehearsal rooms and toilets in an area of public open space called Kirkgate Park, close to listed buildings associated with the Cathedral including the Old Deanery, now a hotel, and the Old Courthouse, now a museum.

Ripon Civic Society opposed the development and concerns that the new cafe would affect trade for businesses in the city centre were expressed.

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The Deanery paused its application to North Yorkshire Council for the scheme’s approval earlier this year to allow for further consultation on the plans.

Ripon CathedralRipon Cathedral
Ripon Cathedral

The Society said: “Ripon Civic Society has written an open letter to the Dean of Ripon, The Very Rev’d John Dobson, reiterating its previous strong objections to the Cathedral’s plans to construct on its northern side a large new building on publicly-owned land traditionally known as Kirkgate Park.

"The Society has sent four letters of objection to North Yorkshire Council, the planning authority that will determine the Cathedral’s application for a building intended to provide a refectory, choir practice rooms, toilets and storage. The building would not be linked to the Cathedral; access would be across the public Minster Road.

"The letter to the Dean, which comes during a ‘pause’ for ‘consultation’ instigated by the Cathedral, notes that the Society has ‘been particularly concerned about the effect of a large new structure on the park, which would severely mar the open space and compromise the setting of the surrounding listed buildings.’

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"To help all parties understand the value of the setting into which it is proposed to insert the new building, the Society has produced a leaflet called ‘Kirkgate Park – An Appreciation’. It sets out the historic significance of the open space and draws attention to the fact that it is within a Scheduled Monument.

"It also highlights the important listed buildings – the Old Deanery, the Courthouse (both Grade II*) and the Grade II Old Courthouse, as well as the Grade I cathedral itself – that surround the park, and whose setting will be adversely affected by occupying a large proportion of the park with a new structure.

Co-chair Richard Taylor said: “Kirkgate Park is an attractive open space that residents and visitors appreciate for its tranquillity in the heart of the city. It also plays host to community events. The Society will continue to oppose the Cathedral’s plans as they are currently set out. We should like to see proper consultation and a radical rethink that will provide the facilities that the Cathedral needs. Our ‘Kirkgate Park’ leaflet is intended to provide a sound basis for future, substantive discussion.”

A spokesperson for Ripon Cathedral said: “We will be inviting all members of Ripon Civic Society to a meeting as part of the new phase of consultation. The purpose of this consultation is to ensure that people have the correct information about the proposed plans and to enable the cathedral to gather informed responses and suggestions.

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"The Cathedral is itself a member of the Civic Society and like many other members does not approve of the line being taken by a small group of people, who make up the executive group, claiming to speak for the whole society."

Historic England have also submitted supporting comments in favour of the scheme.

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