Ripponden hits a milestone: 1,000 council meetings

21st June 2011. Profile on Sowerby Bridge and Ripponden.  Old Bridge Inn.
21st June 2011. Profile on Sowerby Bridge and Ripponden. Old Bridge Inn.

PARISH councils have been around for hundreds of years in one form or another.

But in the early 1970s, three new councils were established in Calderdale as a result of abolishing borough, urban and rural district councils and the formation of Calderdale Council.

A new parish council was formed in Ripponden – and this week it held its 1,000th meeting.

It has changed over the years from a talking shop mulling over broken street lights, blocked drains and litter bins to become an effective, democratic machine which puts in time, effort and money to build community pride and help improve the area for all the 8,000 or so residents in Ripponden, Rishworth, Barkisland and Soyland.

The parish council has had its fair share of ups and downs, and maintaining it costs each of the 3,200 households an average £11 a year.

Over the next 12 months, Ripponden Parish Council will spend nearly £50,000.

There will be elections in 2015 for the 12 seats on the council, which are contested every four years. Its meetings are hardly crowd pullers.

There were no members of the public at the historic 1,000th meeting.

Had there been, among other things they would have heard councillors discuss were thorny subjects such as their new standing orders, their updated website, the workings of Calderdale Council’s “Community Asset Transfer” scheme, parking problems, the need for a 20 mph zone, the Ebenezer grave ard improvements, the success of the 2012 civic dinner, bus services in Soyland, how to celebrate the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, dog fouling, vandalism to the village war memorial, Christmas lights, wind farms and a host of local planning applications.

The meeting, which began at 7.15, ended just before 10pm.

The council might now be renamed to avoid confusion with the Parochial Church Council.

Members voted overwhelmingly in favour of a name change at the 1,000th meeting but have still to decide what it should be.

And there is also pressure for the council to have a mayor rather than a chairman.

One of the first things the council did when it was established in 1973 was to decide there should be no mayor for the Ryburn Valley, but according to Coun Geraldine Carter, it was the worst decision members ever made.

“A lot of people think we are linked to the church because we are a parish council and they look at us as a nondescript entity.

“They should realise we are an organisation that is proactive and an important part of the local government structure,” she said.

Vice-chairman Coun Andrew Naylor said a name change was essential to reflect how the council had changed from being a village to a small town and he backed the idea of “Ripponden Rural Town Council.”

Councillor Melvyn Smith said people were confused by the parish tag and the name should be altered as soon as possible.

But Coun Geoff Potts said it would be costly to produce new stationery, signs, plaques, banners and even a new chairman’s chain.

“It is money we don’t want to be spending during times of austerity,” he said.

Members agreed to look at the practicalities of a name change and chairman Coun Brian Carter said a referendum might be necessary.