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Published by the Society in the Ripon Gazette, 10th October 2008
David Winpenny, Co-Chairman of Ripon Civic Society, looks forward to an event tomorrow – and to Ripon in 12 years’ time.

Vision. This column has several times looked at how Ripon might seem in the future – and how we might want it to look. Now the Civic Society is devoting a whole morning to the subject. Tomorrow (Saturday 11 October) the Society is hosting a Study Morning at Thorpe Prebend House on the subject of what Ripon could and should be like in the year 2020.

Many places around the country have taken the chance to latch on to the phrase ‘2020 vision’. An internet search will find myriad examples of towns and cities using the idea of what life will be like for them in just over a decade as a starting point for their plans for the future. Many of them began the exercise at the time of Millennium, and quite a number have not revisited the idea since then.

Are these merely exercises in crystal ball gazing and wishful thinking, or do they have some practical use? It depends, of course, on the practicalities of the vision and of the determination to work hard to achieve goals that are agreed by everyone. And there the problems can arise. Who decides what we want, and how can we get everyone to agree to work towards an agreed target?

It’s easy enough to talk in generalities. A survey among the leaders of 44 major cities around the world, including Frankfurt, Gothenburg, Johannesburg, Madrid, Sao Paulo, Toronto and Yokohama, found that what they wanted for their cities was high-quality public services, social equality and an attractive and sustainable environment. That is hardly a piece of earth-shattering research – they could hardly have been expected to say otherwise. Everyone in Ripon would no doubt say the same, were they to be asked.

And, in fact, some of them have been. The survey undertaken by Ripon Civic Society, which will be one of the starting points of the Study Morning tomorrow, asked Ripon residents, people who live nearby and visitors to the city about their likes, dislikes and the changes they would like to see in Ripon. The likes were, on the whole, predictable in terms of the city’s historic fabric and buildings. They also liked more intangible things like the place’s friendliness and (a word that came up more than once) its ‘quirkiness’.

The dislikes, too, were what one would have predicted. Traffic difficult to negotiate and, they thought, badly managed. Lack of parking. Bad road surfaces. Dirty streets. Many of them – and significantly, many of the visitors – thought that one of the best things that could be done to improve the city would be the removal of parking from the Market Square.

Ripon City Partnership’s own 2020 vision has looked at all these matters, and the Civic Society’s Study Morning provides an opportunity to develop some of the themes, as well as to ask pertinent questions. Can the Market Square be free from traffic and parking – which is one of the Society’s aims – or is that an unachievable dream? Do we need a bypass to the west of the city as well as to the east and what effect would it have? Do we need to expand the number of people living in Ripon? What should be the policies for protecting our historic buildings and the look and feel of the city, and how do we encourage good new design? And how do we get everyone to have a stake in these discussions and in planning a sensible and achievable outcome for Ripon?

The first part of the Study Morning tomorrow will be led by the Society’s Vice-Chairman, Nigel Rawlinson. He will set the scene, put forward some ideas and pose some questions, before the debate is opened up to the people attending. Later in the morning the Regeneration Manager for Durham City, Harvey Dowdy, will offer some insights into how a historic city can organise its approach to the future and how it can obtain funding for new projects. She has wide experience of planning and conservation, and will undoubtedly challenge the ideas and possible misconception that may be around in Ripon.

It is only a dozen years before Ripon is actually in 2020. There is a chance to help make the city then an even better place to live and work in, and to visit, than it is now. Come along to the Civic Society’s Study Morning tomorrow and help the process along!

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