Expert's eye on 'vibrant' Ripon

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A PRACTICAL blueprint for making Ripon a vibrant, distinctive destination for local people and visitors has been put forward by one of the country's leading experts on enhancing the character and vitality of retail areas.

Andrew Ashenden, who is credited with regenerating Marylebone High Street in London, outlined his recommendations at a special meeting of Ripon City Partnership last Thursday. He emphasised his belief that Ripon is a delightful market town and a successful community with a unique range of characteristics, both in the city and in the surrounding area. However, it could be more successful by following certain simple principles.

As well as emphasising the need to resist inappropriate out-of-town retail developments, which can suck the life out of a city centre, Mr Ashenden underlined the need to encourage individual, speciality retailers to take premises in Ripon.

He said that the city must decide what type of retailers it needs and to work closely with landlords and the local authority to seek suitable tenants. By carefully controlling the retail mix, Ripon could become renowned for the range and quality of its shops and eating places.

Among Mr Ashenden's other recommendations are the delivery of effective and affordable car parking, improved hotel accommodation and more evening activity, including a cinema. He stressed that transforming the often-empty upper floors of shops into living accommodation, in partnership with city centre property owners, would bring benefits for Ripon.

He also said it was important for local authorities to take the lead in many of his suggestions, with strong, positive backing from an effective retailers' association. A high standard of environmental management and emphasis on good shop front design and maintenance, with local authority enforcement where necessary, were also important.

Michael Abrahams, chairman of Ripon City Partnership, said: 'We are indeed fortunate that Andrew Ashenden has been able to devote so much time looking at Ripon's future. "He has very wide experience of regeneration, not just in Marylebone High Street but also as a member of the Retail Commission, and his views are respected around the country. The Ripon City Partnership is working hard with the Ripon City Council to establish our priorities and see how, together, we can implement his recommendations to take the city forward."

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