Plea to protect World Heritage Site from harm as public inquiry into hundreds of Ripon homes closes

Protesters outside the Ripon Spa Hotel at the start of the inquiry.
Protesters outside the Ripon Spa Hotel at the start of the inquiry.

The National Trust made an impassioned plea to the Secretary of State to protect Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal from harm, as a public inquiry into plans for hundreds of Ripon homes closed on Friday.

Representing the National Trust in opposing the plans by Gladman Developments for 390 homes to the south west of West Lane, barrister Clare Parry said in her closing statement: “The appellant’s approach has led to them underestimating or denying the harm to the World Heritage Site.

“The National Trust are not against housing in the right place. However, they have been consistent and clear that the correct route to Harrogate Borough Council meeting their housing needs is not to do so by causing harm to the setting of an asset of international importance, preserved by international convention as an asset of outstanding value to humanity.

“The proposed development will alter the urban envelope of Ripon bringing its boundaries a significant step closer to Studley.

“It follows that the Secretary of State can and should follow the clear example set by the committee of Harrogate Borough Council who took seriously their obligations to protect the World Heritage Site for this and future generations.

“The Secretary of State is respectfully asked to refuse permission.”

Protesters gathered outside Ripon Spa Hotel when the inquiry started on October 24, objecting to the development on multiple grounds - including concerns about flooding, traffic, Fountains Abbey, and the impact of the housing on Quarry Moor as a Site of Special Scientific Interest.

Representing the Ripon Residents Planning Group and Ripon City Council, barrister Philip Robson said in his closing statement: “The inspector must decide whether the benefits clearly outweigh the harms.

“Given the very significant weight that must be attached to harm to a Site of Special Scientific Interest, and the limited benefits of the scheme, the only conclusion is that the benefits do not clearly outweigh the harms and this appeal should be dismissed.

“There is a requirement to do more than mitigate. The development must conserve and enhance or improve the Site of Special Scientific Interest.”

Addressing concerns about flooding, Mr Robson said: “The discharge of water from the site will increase the risk that the defences will not be able to cope in the future.

“Additionally the increased flow will damage important local sites such as the Fairy Steps and the weir.”

A report will be presented to Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Sajid Javid for him to determine the application. Gladman Developments declined to comment.