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AWARDS REFLECT RIPON'S VIGOUR - AND POINT TO THE FUTURE

Published by the Society in the Ripon Gazette, 2nd October 2009
Houses and Apartments on Blossomgate - Winner, Best New Building
 
The Coach House, Ure Bank Terrace - Winner, Sustainability, Commended, Restored Building
 
Ripon Cathedral Chairs - winner, Craftsmanship
 
The Grenhouse on Blossomgate - Winner, Best Shop Front
 
Ripon Cathedral Lighting - part of the winning Aards for the Helen Whitehead Award
 
This week Ripon Civic Society once again rolled out the red carpet and held its glittering (well, fairly glittering) Awards Ceremony.

It seems a very different economic climate even from last year, when the Awards were given for the year that ended around Easter 2008. When the judges were making their choices for that ceremony, there were plenty of new buildings, restorations and craftsmanship to consider, all the result of what was then still a reasonably buoyant economy.

Now those days seem long gone. Many of the new houses that sprang up in the days of prosperity, when buy-to-let mortgages were easy to come by and when it was possible for people with little equity to borrow more than the cost of the property they wanted to buy, remain empty. Look around Ripon to see the result. There are lots of ‘For Sale’ signs that are starting to lean because they have been outside unsold properties for a long time. Estate agents’ windows are full of properties that two or three years ago would have been snapped up within a few days of going on the market.

Maybe it was always too good to last. Perhaps it was right to ‘Make hay while the sun shines’ – though we should always remember that ‘Pride goeth before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall’. The hay that was made in Ripon over the last decade or so has now been heaped up – and how long will it last us? Do we now have enough new houses to last us for the next few years? Do we, indeed, have too many, and will we find them standing empty for years, not only giving Ripon an air of failure but also putting off possible new investors in the city? Or will an economic upturn happen soon, so that we can go back to thinking that new building is a sign of prosperity, and that it is a good thing to have construction sites around us?

The Civic Society’s Awards this year have demonstrated that, though the pace slowed, there was activity in the city in the year up to April 2009. The judges were able to present awards in all the categories – though they did not choose a winner in the ‘Best Restored Building’ category. When the economic waters are turbulent, restoring an old building can need more determination – and more money – than building from scratch, so this is perhaps not too surprising.

And it is perhaps another sign of the times that this year, for the first time, the Society has been able to present its award for sustainability. The bowl that forms the award was given three years ago, but until now there has been no project deemed sufficiently imaginative to receive it. This year we have had two schemes in contention, and the winner perhaps shows one way forward in our quest for a better future – a ground source heating system that supplies a house with its heating and hot water in an economical and environmentally-friendly way.

The Society’s Awards are inevitably a look in the rear-view mirror at what has passed; but what of the future? At the moment there seems to be a little activity around us – a few new houses are still going up, though others have been abandoned half built. There are planning applications for the restoration of some of the older buildings in the city. And, no doubt, there are already craftsmen working on projects that could be considered for the next craftsmanship awards. These may all be the ‘green shoots’ we should be seeking.

Yet, as the Mayor rightly pointed out in his column last week, there are things that Ripon still needs – not least another hotel in the city to complement the existing establishments. And perhaps this is where we bring into the equation the economic value that regenerating older buildings can offer. A new hotel need not be a newly-built hotel. There are buildings in Ripon that could be converted to become stylish and characterful hotels, as opposed to a modern, soulless box which is what you get with so many modern hotel buildings. The huge Abbot’s building on North Street is one – and wouldn’t that help to regenerate that somewhat depressed thoroughfare? Further out is the old Maltings on Ure Bank Top, a building crying out for a sensible use, which could easily be accessed by a new road from Hutton Bank.

So when the Civic Society’s Awards for 2010 are presented, this time next year, where will Ripon be? No one can be sure; but we can all work together to encourage a better environment and a better city – one where the plethora of worthy candidates makes it hard (though a pleasure) for the judges to choose the award winners.

THE CIVIC SOCIETY'S AWARD WINNERS FOR 2009:

 The Hazzard Silver Cup for Best New Building was awarded to the Apartments on Blossomgate/Marshall Way. In the same category a Commended certificate was presented for ‘Yordale’, a terrace of three new houses on Princess Road

 The Price Flagon for Best Restored Building was not presented this year, but Commended certificates went to The Coach House on Ure Bank Terrace and 13 High Skellgate

 The Younge Rosebowl for Best Environmental Improvement was presented for the new relief road, Marshall Way

 The Craftsmanship Shield for Best Craftsmanship was awarded to Ripon Cathedral for the new chairs, made by Treske of Thirsk. A Highly Commended certificate went to B and A J Hartley for repairs to Abbot Huby’s Wall, and a Commended certificate for the Kneelers in the Chapel of Justice and Peace in Ripon Cathedral

 The Taylor Shop Front Award for the Best Shop Front was given to ‘The Greenhouse on Blossomgate’. In the same category, ‘The Little Ripon Bookshop’ on Westgate and Ripon Osteopathy on North Street were awarded Commended certificates

 The Sustainability Award, to be presented to developments that exhibit environmental awareness beyond the legal requirements, was awarded for the first time this year, to The Coach House on Ure Bank Terrace for its ground source heat scheme. A Highly Commended certificate went to Ripon Cathedral for its new lighting

 The winner of The Helen Whitehead Salver for the best project was Ripon Cathedral for the chairs, kneelers and lighting

 John Whitehead Award - Maurice and Dorothy Taylor



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