Ripon Cathedral

Concerns raised over Ripon Cathedral plans for a new annex on public land

13 March 2023

Ripon Cathedral are currently looking to build an annex to the main cathedral on an area of land near to the cathedral, but across a road on public land.

Ref Planning Application No 22/04808/FULMAJ,Construction of annex to provide support facilities for Ripon Cathedral on Harrogate Borough Council Planning Portal

What do they want to do ?

  • A single new build on Minster Gardens/ near to the Ripon Courthouse, comprising:
    • Cathedral Shop – 33m²
    • Meeting room/education – 95m²
    • Toilets – disabled/infant changing, female and male, changing Places toilet – 70 m²
    • Refectory– 144m²
    • Servery/ kitchen 50 m²
    • Song school/ Robe Store – 137m²
    • Staff rooms – 39m²
    • Community space/meeting room -99 m²
    • Store – 103 m²



Minster gardens Ripon
The land that the cathedral is looking to build on

Why do they want to do it ?

To make the Ripon Cathedral a more viable, useful and self-sustaining asset to the city.

“Justification for the Development” is a document produced by Ripon Cathedral, and is attached at the end of this item.

The key points it uses to justify the application are:

  • Assisting financial viability for the operation and upkeep of the listed building
  • Revealing the Cathedral by removing harm and enabling conservation benefits.
  • Provision of toilets
  • Providing catering facilities for the public
  • Creating an improved retail outlet
  • Providing new facilities for the Song School
  • Increasing volunteering and community involvement
  • Extending educational opportunities and appreciation/ understanding of the Cathedral
  • Increasing understanding through archaeological Investigation
  • Promoting equal opportunities
  • Encouraging increased tourism
  • 35% increase in visitor numbers over 5 years – Economic impact of the development
  • Improving public access to enhance the experience and understanding of the Cathedral
  • Securing public realm Improvements

The Minster Gardens Area, where the building is proposed to be built


What about other options ?

A previous option of using land at the side of the cathedral was the preferred scheme, but was objected to by Historic England. This would have been a new building to the right of the cathedral, with a covered link to the main cathedral.

In 2021 the cathedral took the decision to drop that as an option, and the current scheme of using Minster Gardens started.

The option of locating the facilities within the cathedral was considered, and dismissed.

View from the front of the cathedral to the land with a planning application

What are people saying ?

There are over 200 comments on the Harrogate Borough Council Planning system.

Consultee Comments

The statutory consultee comments to the proposal are broadly positive, but not all these responses demonstrate in-depth consideration.

Notably, Ripon City have voted to support the development, but Ripon Civic Society have opposed it, but are supportive of the need for the cathedral to develop.

Public Comments

There is broad support for the Cathedral, and the need to move forward to be viable and relevant, but not this scheme.

The main opposition points are:

  • Loss of Public Open Space
  • Harm to Heritage Assets
  • Loss of Trees
  • Highways Impacts

What is the cathedral saying ?

Very little, we haven’t received any active communication on the development, and they have declined to comment or engage with this news item.

While communication with media is only one aspect of communication, there have been some displays in the cathedral itself. The scheme at the side of the cathedral seemed to have more engagement, with displays in the cathedral. As the scheme changed to the current plan, there was less active engagement.

The proposals haven’t been communicated online, either through a dedicated website or the cathedral website. There has been a reliance on physical displays in the cathedral.

From the engagement to-date, it is fair to conclude that there is support for the overall principles around the need for the development, but not the current solution.

What should happen from here ?

The approach to the planning application has created a degree of risk in how people view the cathedral, and the part it has in the community.

There are broadly 3 outcomes now:

  1. The cathedral withdraw the planning application, but then the impact of that on the cathedral, and the city needs to be understood, and accepted by all
  2. The cathedral presses on the plan proposal, engages in a more significant way, and takes more of the public with them, sharing the positives and negatives of the development
  3. The cathedral continues its current plans, and attempts to press it through approval at a Council Planning Committee. This would alienate sections of the locals, and may lead to an appeal

Comment, Tim Cook, Editor of the Harrogate Informer:

Ripon has some very vocal objectors to the current scheme, and it is easily to be influenced by others opinion. There seem to be some elements in Ripon that are on personal crusades to just oppose any development of the city.

But some of the formal responses to the planning application are very measured, and put forward a strong case agsinst this scheme.

As a starting point, I believe that the cathedral needs to communicate in a more significant way why this is needed. Although there is a justification document, really that is a document that moves quickly into solution, rather than the base justification reasons. There also needs to be better communication as to why the prevous options were not viable. Or in simple terms take the public with them, and not leave them behind.

For some this scheme has developed a wedge between the cathedral and the city, but really the cathedral is the city, and the city is the cathedral.







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