Ripon Cathedral: Residents vote to reject plans for referendum over cathedral's £8m annexe

Residents have voted to reject a proposed referendum on a cathedral’s £8m annexe at a parish council meeting.

Around 250 people packed the city’s Holy Trinity Church to debate proposals by Stanley Mackintosh to hold the poll, which would have included questions on topics including the felling of trees, open space and impact on businesses.

If just ten Ripon residents on the electoral roll voted in favour of the poll taking place it would have been called at the meeting, but he only managed to secure the support of five including himself.

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Despite previously saying he was withdrawing from the process, Mr Mackintosh did attend the meeting. He was the first person to speak as a film crew from Channel 4 News watched on.

The meeting over plans for a referendum on the cathedral's annexe plans took place on March 18The meeting over plans for a referendum on the cathedral's annexe plans took place on March 18
The meeting over plans for a referendum on the cathedral's annexe plans took place on March 18

However, chair Sid Hawke cut him off after he went over his allotted three minutes. Mr Mackintosh said he hoped all sides of the argument could have their say during the meeting.

He said: “This is obviously a very complex matter. It’s a difficult position for everybody.”

Ripon City Council leader Andrew Williams pleaded with residents to reject the parish poll proposals as he said the council would pick up a £10,000 bill.

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He said: “You need to choose if you want to spend £10,000 on an election or if you’d like better Christmas lights or facilities for young children. To spend money on this poll would be truly scandalous.”

Coun Williams received a round of applause after his speech, including from the Dean of Ripon who was in attendance and also addressed the meeting.

The Very Reverend John Dobson urged residents to reject the parish poll which he said would save the city “a lot of angst”.

He said: “What the cathedral is proposing takes a lot of understanding and can’t be looked at superficially. It’s also good that there’s a desire for the city to be together. I understand well that not everybody will agree but there’s no reason for the city to fall out with itself.”

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People at the meeting spoke out both for and against the annexe plans. One man said: “I won’t mince my words. We don’t need a cafe or extension for a choir that has been happily singing in the cathedral for hundreds of years.”

However, another man, who said he was a guide at the cathedral, said the extension would boost the city and provide much-needed facilities. He said: “What the cathedral fetches to Ripon is beyond belief and we can have more.”

But even for those who disagreed about the annexe, the mood in the room appeared firmly against the parish poll and its reported cost to the council.

A vote was taken where an overwhelming majority of people raised their hands to say they wanted the poll proposals thrown out. A second vote was then taken for those in favour of the poll when just five hands were raised — with ten needed for it to go ahead.

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After the meeting, Mr Mackintosh said he was “not too troubled” by the outcome but said he was unhappy with how chair Sid Hawke and Ripon council clerk Paula Benson conducted the meeting.

He said: “It was a disgrace. I wasn’t even allowed to counter the points against the poll. It was very undemocratic.”

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