By Betsy Everett
The Bishop of Ripon, Dr Helen-Ann Hartley, has become a patron of the Askrigg Foundation, a charity set up nearly half a century ago by a former vicar of Askrigg, Malcolm Stonestreet, to strengthen and support the small rural community.
The bishop joins Rishi Sunak, MP for Richmond and chancellor of the exchequer, and Geoffrey Baber, chairman of the Holiday Property Bond, in supporting the charity’s work as patrons.
The Foundation is on the verge of converting its major asset, a three-storey building in the centre of the village, into three affordable homes for rent under the government’s Community Led Housing scheme.
Building work is expected to start next month, pending approval from the planning authority for suitable windows. The rented homes will be held in perpetuity for the community and made available to people who live or work in the area who might otherwise not be able to afford a place to live.
There will also be a refurbished commercial space on the ground floor which it is hoped will be let to a local craft co-operative.
Bishop Helen-Ann said she was “honoured” to accept the invitation to become a patron.
“It is encouraging to see a local charity working so actively to support the community within which it is based, particularly with the focus on affordable housing which is one of the key factors in keeping the Dales alive,” she said.
“I look forward to hearing more about your work.”
Two weeks ago Dr Hartley saw for herself the community in action when she celebrated holy communion in a family service at St Oswald’s Church, receiving a warm and enthusiastic welcome.
The vicar of the Upper Wensleydale Benefice, the Revd Dave Clark, who is a trustee of the Foundation, said: “The charity has its roots firmly in the Christian faith which we believe touches every aspect of people’s lives.
“Providing homes for people who could not otherwise afford to stay in the Dales is part of this commitment and to have Bishop Helen-Ann’s support as a patron is invaluable.”
Under the government scheme, Richmondshire District Council made available a grant of £175,000 towards the cost of the project – roughly 50 per cent – and the Foundation has also received £9,535 from the National Lottery Awards for All Community Fund.