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Published by the Society in the Ripon Gazette, 2nd November 2008
Ripon people were recently given the chance to comment on the city’s Conservation Area. Harrogate Borough Council issued a general invitation to interested people to two workshops where the principles of the Conservation Area were explained. Participants were then sent off in small groups to look around parts of the city to see what they valued and whether the current Conservation Area boundaries are set in the right place.

The turn-out was disappointing. At the first of the workshops around a dozen people turned up. We looked at parts of Ripon around the Crescent, Palace Road and the former College, coming back with recommendations about changes to the boundaries. At the second meeting there were just seven people, five of whom were Civic Society committee members.

The organisers from the council’s Heritage and Design Team were rather disheartened by the response. Conservation Area meetings in villages had produced a much bigger and more enthusiastic turn-out. Perhaps this is not surprising; in villages people take more ownership of their environment than do urban people. They are more likely to be protective of it and to notice and perhaps resent unnecessary changes.

But in Ripon there is perhaps an even greater need to be vigilant. Changes may happen even more quickly than in a village, and there is a great deal of new building happening or planned here. There may be an assumption that ‘someone’ should complain, without thinking that the ‘someone’ should perhaps be you.

A Conservation Area is defined as ‘an area of special architectural or historic interest, the character or appearance of which it is desirable to preserve or enhance.’ The aim is ‘to preserve and enhance, not merely listed buildings, but all those elements (which may include minor buildings, trees, open spaces, walls, paving materials, etc.) which together make up the familiar and cherished local scene’.

A Conservation Area designation provides the council with greater control over changes to buildings and trees. Even more importantly, it takes into account not just individual buildings but the general look of the place which provides its character. And Ripon owes much of its attractiveness to the totality of its character.

That’s why it was important for at least some of Ripon’s citizens to help the council in its statutory duty to look at the Conservation Areas and to make sure they include everything that needs protection in the city. It is not a job for ‘someone’ – it’s a duty for all of us.

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