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Published by the Society in the Ripon Gazette, 7th November 2008
David Winpenny, Chairman of Ripon Civic Society, welcomes new ideas for traffic management in Ripon city centre

At almost the same time as Stanley Mackintosh put pen to paper for his piece in last week’s Ripon Gazette, Ripon Civic Society’s committee was meeting to discuss exactly the same problem – how to regulate traffic in the city. And the committee agreed that its recommendations should be very nearly the same solution as his.

The Civic Society has long believed in – and campaigned for – a traffic-free Market Square. And as Mr Mackintosh reminds us, that is now a possibility. The opening of Marshall Way, from North Street to Blossomgate, gives the city an alternative to traffic through the Square – an opportunity that might be further enhanced by widening Firby Lane and making it two-way. The city needs to grasp the opportunity that is now presented and take the leap of faith. Close the Square to traffic, and return it to its proper use. Get rid of the parking completely (this is a step more radical than Mr Mackintosh suggests; he would, for the time being at least, allow parking on the north end) and have the Square open for activities, cafe seating, music, strolling, admiring the buildings . . .

It is a very logical step, too, to suggest that the traffic-free zone should extend down Kirkgate. The top part of Kirkgate, between the Square and Duck Hill, is one of Ripon’s most dangerous places, where traffic comes far too fast down the slope. The lower part of Kirkgate, approaching one of Ripon’s most glorious sights, the west front of the cathedral, should be one of the culminating experiences of a visit to Ripon. Traffic-free, it would be; with traffic – even restricted traffic as we had before it was reopened to help cope with the ‘chaos’ of the closure of Coltsgate Hill – it will never achieve greatness. And if there was a ban on through traffic past the cathedral on Minster Road, while maintaining necessary access to places like the Old Deanery, it would greatly enhance the city.

The Civic Society spent some time discussing the route of the 36 bus to and from Harrogate and Leeds. No route is ideal, but its current course along Low and High Skellgate, round into the Market Square and the bending again into Old Market Place and Moss’s Arcade, blights these historic streets and cannot be allowed to continue. Other routes have their problems; for a large bus to travel along Westgate is certainly undesirable. This is a nettle that must be grasped. Could the route use the bypass – perhaps with buses into Ripon going off Harrogate Road at Quarry Moor Lane, into Dallamires Lane and eventually into the city via the bypass and North Street? And if, as Mr Mackintosh suggests, Queen Street is made two way, the return route could be the same. Routes of local buses could be suitably adjusted to serve other areas of the city and the city centre.

Deliveries need to be restricted, both in the times that they are made – the Civic Society suggests that restrictions should apply between 10.00 am and 4.00 pm – and in the size of the vehicles that make them. And as far as possible they should be at the rear, not the front, of premises. No doubt there will be cries of ‘Impossible!’ and of ‘Killing trade!’ at this idea. But it works perfectly well in towns and cities across the country – around the world! – and, combined with a better experience for shoppers in the city by having greater pedestrianised areas, it would lead to an increase in trade as people see just what an attractive place Ripon is. Many local businesses have already grasped this concept and are actively pushing for such a scheme.

Parking, that Ripon perennial, will also come up again. The city was promised that when the new car park west of the Market Square opened, the south end of the Square would immediately be returned to open space. Now there are moves keep it as parking until Christmas. If during that time serious consideration is given to making the whole Square traffic-free, then that may be a price worth paying. But it cannot be allowed to be the thin end of the wedge – there must be no further extensions beyond Christmas. Park and Ride should be high on the agenda, too, and there are other parking possibilities – they will be the subject of another of these comment pieces.

The Civic Society welcomes Mr Mackintosh’s ideas, and urges the County Council and other interested parties to meet as soon as possible to look at ways in implementing them as soon as possible. Then we can really start reclaiming the streets of Ripon for the people, rather than the cars – a move that will also boost the trade and prosperity of the city. Let’s get on with it!

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