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Financial benefits of Ripon Cathedral expansion 'uncosted', claims planning expert

A planning expert has issued an objection to Ripon Cathedral’s £6m plans to build a new song school and cafe on the site.

Financial benefits of Ripon Cathedral expansion 'uncosted', claims planning expert A planning expert has issued an objection to Ripon Cathedral’s £6m plans to build a new song school and cafe on the site, arguing the financial benefits of the expansion have not been properly costed. The Cathedral submitted plans a year ago for a two-storey structure on part of the public open space known as Minster Gardens. It says the building is much-needed and will provide a new song school for its choir, a cafe, toilet facilities and disabled access. Ripon Cathedral says it currently welcomes 100,000 visitors a year, which could increase by 33% if the expansion went ahead, bringing in crucial revenue. The application is yet to be considered by councillors on North Yorkshire Council but it has been controversial in the city, particularly with business owners who fear the new cafe will take trade away from them. The plans have received an objection this month from Peter Eggleton, a planner based in Ripon with two decades of experience as well as conducting more than 1,000 planning appeals as an inspector. Mr Eggleton wrote in his objection letter that the application has left him “astonished” due its financial implications and impact on the Old Deanery hotel and restaurant which stands next to the cathedral. After studying planning documents submited by the cathedral, he said there is “no suggestion” of what profits the new building might make and he also questioned if the returns from the cafe would even cover the running costs of operating the new building. Mr Eggleton said:

“The financial ‘promise’ of this proposal is not costed. There is no supporting financial information at all. Profits simply may not happen. It may be a financial liability. The applicants have already stated how many other buildings they have that they struggle to maintain. “In any event, unless there is a mechanism for ensuring that profits are directed back into the cathedral, they would not secure anything of benefit to outweigh the proposed harm.”
The planner also strongly criticises the position of the new building, which he said would be “unacceptably overbearing” on the Grade II listed Old Deanery venue. Mr Eggleton added:
“This is not a heritage-led design as suggested. It is the architect providing the client with everything on their wish list without proper consideration for the surrounding heritage assets.”
Ripon Cathedral declined to respond to Mr Eggleton’s comments but it issued the following statement about the plans last month:
“Research suggests that visitor numbers to the cathedral could increase by more than a third in the first five years (as outlined in our submission on the economic impact), which will have a significant effect on visitors to the city overall – and 47% of visitors to a city referenced the cathedral as their driver for the visit. “This will obviously have a positive knock-on financial impact on businesses within the city, as well as support the long-term financial sustainability of the cathedral. "As the dean and others have made clear in public statements and in conversation with business and café owners around the city – this project is good for everyone and isn’t intended to impact anyone in anything but a positive way.”
By Thomas Barrett, Local Democracy Reporter Read more local stories from Your Harrogate here.

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