Cash-strapped school on the move

The current home of the Cathedral Choir School at its current 10.5 acre site on Whitcliffe Lnae in Ripon. 301208ARpic1.
The current home of the Cathedral Choir School at its current 10.5 acre site on Whitcliffe Lnae in Ripon. 301208ARpic1.

Ripon’s Cathedral Choir School is set to move to a new home if proposals unveiled this week go ahead.

Governors have announced plans to sell the current site on Whitcliffe Lane and relocate to a purpose-built facility on the southern fringe of the city.

The school owes around £600,000 to Ripon Cathedral after struggling to maintain pupil numbers through tough economic times, and the plans will see its present home sold for housing developments to repay the debt.

The school’s incoming Chairman of Governors, Andrew Kitchingman, said:

“Like a lot of prep schools we are asset rich and cash poor. We need four to five acres for buildings, plus two acres for playing fields. This site is around 10.5 acres.”

By selling off a site too big for the school’s needs governors hope to release enough cash to repay the cathedral’s loans and build a new home.

The school has a six-acre site “under option” on farmland east of the A61 Harrogate Road, 200 metres south of the Ripon bypass roundabout on the edge of the city. Governors hope the location will be more attractive to prospective parents.

“The school is not well-located to appeal to the parents of prep school children. We are deep inside a housing estate and access is poor,” Mr Kitchingman added.

“We have looked very carefully at dozens of potential sites in Ripon and we feel this site ticks all the right boxes, not just in terms of functionality for the new school but also for the image of Ripon as a cathedral city.”

York-based Shepherd Construction has been lined-up to build the new school, although final plans have yet to be revealed.

The school’s current Whitcliffe Lane site was earmarked for development in Harrogate Borough Council’s homes plan published late last year.

The Local Development Framework listed the Cathedral Choir School as one of six sites around Ripon that could be used to solve the city’s housing shortfall. The document said up to 107 homes could be built on the site.

House builders Persimmon Homes, based in York, have been lined-up to take on development of the site, with a “period of exclusivity” to carry out site investigations on the plot, the school confirmed.

Andrew Bowes, managing director at Persimmon Homes Yorkshire, said: “Persimmon acknowledges Ripon is a sought after residential location and as such we are currently pursuing a number of exciting opportunities in the area.”

School governors have met borough council planners for a series of “pre-application” discussions about the new school buildings.

Applications for both sites are expected to be formally submitted by late June, with building work on the new school due to start in early 2013 in time for a move by Easter 2014.

In 2008, the Cathedral Choir School looked into but did not pursue a move to the state sector as a way of keeping the school a viable entity and maintaining its supply of young choristers to Ripon Cathedral.