Campaigners criticising Ripon Cathedral's £6million plans say public deserves ‘a full consultation’
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Campaigners have highlighted what they believe are flaws in the cathedral’s plans which involve removing 11 trees, including a healthy veteran beech tree on public land.
The plans to build a two-storey structure, a refectory, and essential facilities were submitted last December and have been described as “outrageous” by campaigners.
Campaigners say the proposal was not given a “full public consultation”, and hope the planning committee will consider the current application could be in breach of the national planning framework.
Campaigner Pat Waterfall said: “There's a national planning policy protecting veteran trees that states ‘planning permission should be refused unless there are wholly exceptional circumstances’.
“These are not exceptional circumstances.”
Campaigners pointed out the area's well-known gypsum issues were a cause for concern over the felling of the trees responsible for soaking up excess rainfall.
She said: ”These trees soak up thousands of gallons of water each year.
“It's a perfect recipe for sinkhole development even without factoring in the increasing incidence of torrential rainstorms directly on to the ground thanks to climate change.
“I would suggest that we’ve no idea what's underneath this ground."
Mrs Waterfall also expressed her concerns for the surrounding trade.
She said: “The cathedral may argue that they have no intention of reducing footfall to other trade, and deny that the other cafes could be affected.
“However, their planning and application documents prove otherwise.
“And I’m quoting here: ‘It is required to prevent visitors from drifting away from the cathedral and using various cafes in the city’.
“As far as we can see, there’s been no full public consultation, which is what we are doing now.”
Two exhibitions were held by the cathedral inviting the public to view the plans. These received a total of 210 responses.
Jenni Hollman, another campaigner, explained that these events were only seen by those who had visited the cathedral.
She argued the wider public had not been sufficiently engaged with and the exhibition did not fully outline the impact.
Mrs Hollman said: “We became increasingly aware of exactly what it all meant.
“We put a petition in nearby shops and cafes who felt it would affect their business. Close enough to see the cathedral, read the plans and make up their own minds.
“What has been surprising is that many people still don't know about it.
“In my mind, destroying these healthy mature trees is just outrageous.”
In response to the petition, a cathedral spokesperson said: “The project has been designed to benefit the whole of Ripon and the wider area.
“Research suggests visitor numbers to the cathedral could increase by more than a third in the first five years, which will have a significant effect on visitors to the city.
“We will plant 21 trees on site, six of which are mature, plus 300 more on land which has been made available to us at Studley.
“Work has been undertaken over the past few years to examine every possible option for providing the additional facilities that the cathedral requires and that work has been exhaustive.
“Other options have been fully considered and discounted by experts in their field.
“The Dean and Chapter have made every effort to engage with businesspeople and other members of the community.
“Anyone who would like to discuss specific aspects of the project can get in touch with the cathedral directly at [email protected].”