Future of the Guildhall

York residents petition

Council officials have now produced a report on the future of the historic Guildhall – the traditional home, for most of the last 800 years, of democracy and debate in the City.

The report pointedly fails to recognise the concerns expressed by residents who petitioned the Council earlier in the year about the future of the Listed building (right).

What seems increasingly clear is that leading Councillors have no idea what to do with the Guildhall buildings and even less idea how they would pay for any remodelling.

The report talks only of use as ”a centre for creative / digital businesses”.

However, we appear to be getting one of those at the Bonding Warehouse site anyway.

Although the site, taken as a whole, does offer development opportunities, anyone who has Google Earth will readily be able to see that access is a major problem with the only obvious “solution” being to demolish Lendal Cellars & the Post Office building (a well used facility!).

Having architectural competition smacks of desperation and a staggering insensitivity to cost issues. The £35,000 they will be giving to Royal Institute of British Architects, and as prizes, is equal to the cost of keeping facilities like the Beckfield Lane recycling centre open.

And at the end of the day all the Council will have will be a design plan. Still needing several millions in investment to bring it to a reality.

“Blue sky” thinking often produces “red ink” expenditure levels. Unless there is a comprehensive planning brief written then a competition could produce an impractical solution dogged by raised expectation levels.

The last architectural competition of this sort, organised by the Council, resulted in the Parliament Street remodelling 25 years ago – fountain, cycle racks, (recently demolished) public toilets and all.

The Council should retain the Guildhall as its democratic base and let out spare space there – and at its new Toft Green HQ – on a commercial basis to help pay for maintenance costs.

York Guildhall

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