Ripon councillors fear that the city’s historic cabmen’s shelter may not survive another winter on the Market Square if it’s left to rot and decay any further.
For more than a year, Ripon City Council has been working to obtain the permissions required to restore the shelter, but at a full council meeting earlier this month, councillors voiced frustration at having to jump through “too many hoops” from organisations like Historic England to protect the important Grade II listed structure.
The shelter is one of only a few left in the UK, and was used by drivers of horse drawn cabs waiting for fares. Ripon City Council appointed a specialist contractor to take on its restoration, but the council’s clerk confirmed at the meeting that the contractor has withdrawn from the process until progress is made on gaining the necessary permissions.
Coun Andrew Williams (Ind, Moorside), said: “What we have at the moment is a rotting pile of wood on the corner of the Market Square which is looking worse with every passing month. It’s hardly an enhancement to tourists and visitors to have that mess on the corner of the Square.
“The cost of repair is substantially escalating month by month. Before long it’s going to be in a state of very serious disrepair, and that neglect is not ours.
“It’s theirs (Historic England), because they’ve prevented us from progressing the remedial work to get the shelter back to its pristine condition again.”
To repair the cabmen’s shelter, the structure needs to be moved indoors to assess the extent of the work that needs to be done, and to allow it to dry out. Once the work has been completed, the shelter will be returned to the Market Square.
Coun Williams said: “The structure needs moving somewhere dry for the winter period. The last thing it needs is to be subjected to the winter elements, because otherwise, come Spring, it may well be that it’s beyond repair.
“It’s annoying because it’s probably the only movable listed structure in Britain and it ought to be therefore capable of being marketed as a unique attraction to come and look at in the city, but at the moment it can hardly be described as an ancient charm - an ancient wreck, but certainly not charming in its current form.”
Councillors agreed to contact Ripon and Skipton MP Julian Smith and ask him to lobby Historic England and the other organisations that Ripon City Council is working with, to help speed up the process before it’s too late.
The council is also keen to work with Ripon Civic Society to protect the shelter, and councillors agreed to put up a notice on the outside of the shelter to inform residents and visitors of what is being done to try and obtain the permissions, including an explanation of why it hasn’t been possible for the restoration work to be progressed sooner.
Setting out the reasons for putting up the notice, Coun Pauline McHardy said: “It does get a lot of attention, probably more since it has been in such a state of disrepair.”
A spokesperson for Historic England said: “The Cabman’s Shelter in Ripon Market Place dates back to 1911 and is Grade II listed as a nationally rare and highly decorative example of its type, and an important reminder of the importance of horse-drawn transport in the early twentieth century.
"We are very supportive in principle of the intentions to carry out sympathetic repairs to the shelter. We advised Harrogate Borough Council as the local planning authority that more detail of the work required is provided to them before listed building consent is granted, and offered suggestions to ensure the best possible outcome for the long term future of the shelter.
"We act in an advisory capacity and it is for the local planning authority, as decision maker in the planning system, to make the final decision on the case.”