Ripon City Council has called for immediate action to improve the ‘TV image’ of Ripon ahead of the arrival of the UCI Road World Championships, raising concerns that some of the city’s biggest eyesores sit prominently along the main routes of the global cycling event.
With countless TV cameras set to be trained on Ripon as the championships zoom through the city in September, councillors have warned that something needs to be done to ensure that the eyes of the world are impressed by Ripon, and not put off when they see TV shots of ‘rundown buildings.’
At a full council meeting on Monday night, Coun Andrew Williams (Ind, Moorside), said the city’s former library site at the bottom of Duck Hill is an “absolute mess,” and needs to be tidied up quickly before the races in September.
He said: “We have to do something to ensure that this isn’t part of the TV image of Ripon this year. It is an absolute mess - so much so, that there is now buddleia growing out across the highway.
“We need to do something to get it tidied up, I mean it’s been like that probably for at least two years, possibly more. It’s right in the heart of the city, and for local residents to have to continually endure it is bad enough, but we certainly don’t want to welcome visitors with that sight.”
Coun Williams proposed that the council should spend £200 to put up some sort of decorated boarding at the site to soften its appearance, possibly inviting children in the city to take part in a painting competition that has an appropriate cycling theme.
But Coun Pauline McHardy, (Ind, Minster ward), said any projects to improve the appearance should be the responsibility of the developer of the site or whoever is directly responsible for its management.
She said: “I get a little bit anxious and frustrated because all we hear is, ‘this will only cost us a couple of hundred pounds,’ but at the end of the day, all of these couple of hundred pounds do add up to an awful lot of money, and it’s the public’s money.
“I don’t know if we could be putting this money to better use if we made the people responsible for this site look after it themselves.”
Coun Williams said the developers have done what is expected of them to meet criteria for keeping the site safe, but added that an art project would help make it TV ready.
He said: “I think it would be money well spent, rather than having a derelict site in the heart of the city which makes it look untidy. Yes, it might not be our statutory responsibility, but we exist as a parish council to make this place a better place to live and work.
"For a couple of hundred quid, we could tidy up an eyesore and get the city much better looking for visitors. I would have thought that's value for money in terms of enhancing the visitor experience and making it more likely that those who come here in September will go away saying Ripon's a really nice place, that it's well looked after, and clean and tidy."
Coun Stuart Martin, (Con, Moorside), said: "There are plenty of artists around the city that we could perhaps ask to do something that would be in keeping with what's coming here in September.
"I think we've got to just think about what is actually coming here in September. Yes, there's a bike race, but there's the eyes of the whole world looking at Ripon as the bike race goes through. There isn't a better opportunity to showcase what Ripon has to offer - if we leave it as it is, the lasting impression of Ripon that people from around the world will take away, won't be the right one.
"We have a chance to attract more visitors to Ripon, in the same way that we did in November last year for the poppy project. People enjoyed it, and they are still coming back. We have a chance to do that ten-fold if we do this right."
Councillors resolved to spend £200 on improving the appearance of the site by a majority vote.
The former library site wasn't the only location that came under fire at Monday's meeting. Coun Williams criticised Ripon's branch of Ponden Home interiors store on Kirkgate for the length of time that it has displayed closing down signs in its windows, and called for them to be taken down before the TV cameras arrive for the cycling championships.
Coun Williams said: "My concern with the shop is that it's almost warranting a place in the Guinness World Records for the longest closing down sale - I believe the signs have been up for 12 months. I don't believe it's particularly helpful to businesses and the city as a whole to have those signs emblazoned across their windows for such a long period of time.
"And on the Sunday of the UCI race, the TV cameras will be going past there. I am determined that wherever possible, the city creates as positive an image as possible to the outside world and looks its best for this global cycling event."
Ponden Home have been approached for comment.