The first phase in developing the Ripon City Plan was a wide-scale community consultation with residents, businesses and stakeholders to identify issues and opportunities for the future of the City. This was called “How could Ripon be better for you?” and took place between April and June 2013. Information about the proposed Ripon City Plan was distributed within “In Focus” a free magazine distributed to all households in and around the City, complemented by the distribution of flyers and posters.
Following the close of consultation at the end of June 2013, the City Plan Team read all of the responses and rigorously analysed and categorised each and every response to identify the most common opinions and concerns expressed. From this analysis the following documents were produced:
During the consultation a number of respondents indicated that they wished to be kept informed about the development of the Ripon City Plan and that they were willing to get involved in helping. This group were invited to form a Ripon City Plan Focus Group, with which the City Plan team could discuss ideas and thoughts at critical stages. The first focus group meeting took place in September 2013, to discuss the feedback from the “How could Ripon be better for you?” consultation.
The following is an extract of the presentation given to the focus group, which outlined the most common responses to the questions posed in the consultation:
Getting around- transport: How can we improve getting around? What are your three suggestions?
- Busses: Suggestions for improved bus transport formed ~54% of question responses.
- Parking: ~47% of suggestions mentioned parking, including ~18% with issues about lack of provision and ~11% on the topic of cost.
- Roads: Our highways themselves comprised ~43% of suggestions. This figure was mainly made up of road planning/infrastructure and maintenance themes. Excluded from this is pedestrianization, which made up ~12% of respondents’ ideas.
- The most frequent specific suggestion surrounded development of more cycle routes, ~24% of proposals were on this theme.
Earning and spending- businesses and shops: What would be your three most important changes to boost jobs and encourage spending in Ripon.
- Rates and rents: comprising ~39% of proposals, suggestions surrounding rates, rents and incentives for businesses were by far the dominant suggestion. Although this included established Ripon firms, most recommendations referred to start-ups or businesses entering Ripon for the first time.
- Parking: This topic made up ~30% of total propositions for boosting jobs and spending in Ripon.
- Commercial diversity: ~19% of suggestions were stating a need for general business diversity, although this figure is much higher in real terms. Responses were recorded separately if they suggested a specific type of business. To illustrate, it would be illogical to bunch the ~7% of respondents specifically suggesting encouraging eateries into a group with the ~10% who proposed exactly the opposite.
- Also notable was the ~36% of suggestions which were objectively linked to aesthetics, although they haven’t formally been categorised together because of the difference in perceived problems. ~16% of this would-be category was made up of beautification suggestions- both of buildings and approaches to the city. A further ~14% suggested the development of unused retail buildings, and the remaining ~7% covered general maintenance concerns. One thing we can definitely take from this is that the city’s appearance is a big talking point.
Looking after Ripon- environment: What are your three most important suggestions to how we can sustain an attractive environment?
- Maintenance: the theme of addressing general maintenance issues was a prominent in these responses, and featured ~60% of the time. The ~38% of answers which had proposals for addressing litter are included in that figure. Not included in this figure are the ~21% of responses which suggested implementing a body or campaign surrounding city pride and/or tidiness. Also omitted from this category are the 10% of responses specifically surrounding development or maintenance of unused retail sites.
- Green spaces: 31% of question responses mentioned encouraging or maintaining green spaces or planting in the city.
- Beautification: ~21% of responses to this question dealt in some way with other beautification that could not be categorised as fitting into either of the above categories. One common theme within this grouping was the beautification of shop fronts. This figure rises by ~1% if you include the specific requests to regulate the design of establishments’ commercial signage.
Healthy Ripon- Community, voluntary and health: What are you three most important suggestions to help you, and others become involved in a healthy active and supportive local community.
- New swimming facilities: ~36% of responses suggested it was time for new swimming facilities. This figure does not include the ~11% of responses which recommended supporting or maintaining the current pool.
- Promotion: ~25% of responses simply suggested promotion of existing groups and facilities, or just or of healthy living in general.
- Youth: ~17% of responses shared the theme of targeting something at youth. This was a broad grouping that included educating youth on the benefits of a healthy lifestyle, encouraging youth volunteering, and installing features or activities targeted at young people. The notion of a skate park was a frequent sub-set of this.
- A number of other groupings closely followed the most prominent three, two notable topics surrounded support of the hospital (~14% of responses) and concerns over the cost and availability of sport and leisure facilities in Ripon (15%).
Living and learning- homes and education: What are your three most important suggestions to provide the right housing in the right places, and opportunities and access to lifelong learning?
- Developing specific sites: ~34% of responses mentioned the development of unused buildings, brownfield sites, and frequently the specific development of the soon to be vacated Claro barracks.
- Adult education: ~29% of responses made suggestions for increased access to lifelong learning in Ripon.
- Affordable housing: ~21% of responses specifically stated that there was a need for affordable housing.
Meeting and greeting- attractions: What are your three most important suggestions for making sure that Ripon’s buildings, streets and open places are best used to promote local pride, and to provide a welcome to visitors?
- Beautification: ~30% of total suggestions to this question surrounded the beautification of buildings, this was a separate issue to the calls to “do something with” Ripon’s empty units. Combining the two figures would have yielded a total of ~50% of all responses.
- Maintenance/litter: ~28% of suggestions made in response to this question were on the theme of litter or general maintenance of pavements, roads and public spaces.
- Advertising, marketing and PR: This group formed ~22% of responses and is made up of a range of related comments. The common theme of in this grouping implicitly or explicitly stated that Ripon needs to work harder to exploit its qualities.
Other views or comments: Do you have any other views or comments you wish to make that should be considered in the development of the Ripon City Plan?
- Concerns with power structure including transparency: As you can imagine, this question provoked a very broad spectrum of comments which were difficult to categorise tightly. Responses were placed in this category, which comprised ~16% of issues raised, if they voiced concern about power structures in Ripon. This mainly included concerns over councillors with vested interests, lethargic councillors, influence of so-called ‘local champions’, and many comments on lack of local government transparency.
- New attraction or feature: This topic comprised ~15% of the responses to this question, but again it is possibly a dubious grouping as the suggestions over what specifically that feature should be were varied. A new swimming pool dominated the suggestions, other recurring themes called for a theatre, a visitor accommodation, or entertainment for younger residents.
- Concerns with the plan or circulation of consultation document: ~14% of themes proposed in response to this question surrounded unease over the ability of this plan to deliver change, the likelihood of the consultation suggestions being acted on, or the circulation/advertising of the consultation opportunity.