Future of Willow House site

Willow House stands abandoned

Residents are being invited to start a “conversation” about plans for the Willow House site next to the Bar Walls.

It is the first sign of activity by the Council on a property which has been empty and unused for over 5 years. Together with the former Oakhaven care home in Acomb, it is one of the Councils major ongoing embarrassments.

News that any redevelopment planning application will not be ready for over 12 months will just add to residents frustrations.

Given the value of the site (over £3 million), it is a surprise that the Council are going to seek to redevelop the site itself using its “Shape Homes” front organisation.

The Council says, “The first drop-in event on the site of the former Willow House on Walmgate, will start sharing ideas between residents and architects from Stirling Prize-winners Mikhail Riches. This will include asking residents about the area and what they would want from new homes and open spaces.

It is hoped that the site which was an outdated care home can be added to the council’s ambitious Housing Delivery Programme. The programme will deliver 600 homes with twice the number of affordable homes required by planning and built to be highly energy efficient.

This will be the first of a series of three resident consultation events for this site, the same approach as was used successfully on other Housing Delivery Programme sites at Duncombe Barracks, Burnholme and Ordnance Lane”.

Willow House site
Willow House

The drop-in event will take place on 29 June from 4-7pm on the green next to Walmgate Bar. Residents can also join a walk around the site at 5pm. In the autumn, we’ll invite residents to a hands-on design workshop with the team and, early in the new year, we will also organise a local exhibition and an online survey on the plans to date. A full planning application is planned to be submitted by summer 2022.

Barbican site

Meanwhile, just over the road from Willow House, the long term empty building site next to the Barbican has apparently been occupied by squatters. Whether this improves the appearance of one of York’s biggest eyesores – and missed opportunities – remains to be seen.

Certainly, according to media reports, the protestors have a very naïve view of what can be achieved using the Council’s compulsory purchase powers.

Yet fundamentally they are right. Persimmons – the owners – have consistently failed to explain why they haven’t developed what is a valuable prime site. Their position is doubly confusing when judged against a background of continuing heavy demand for city centre properties in the City.

They have exacerbated the problem by failing to keep the area tidy.

We doubt that the York Council would do any better – they have left too many of their own properties vacant in the City (see above) to able to preach.

There may be a germ of an good idea, though, if a “Friends of Barbican Park” group could take over the maintenance of the area. At least in the short term, it has potential to be a welcome “natural area” in what otherwise is a largely concrete enclave.

Certainly those who walk the City Walls would appreciate an improved view.

2 thoughts on “Future of Willow House site

  1. Roger+Pierce says:

    It was an error to sell the Barbican or other council lands without a pre-emptiness clause enabling the council to recover the site if redevelopment had not been substantially underway in, say, five years. This is standard practice elsewhere.

    I don’t regard the Barbican site as an eyesore. It’s regenerated nicely into an attractive, wild landscape. Just remove the hoardings.

  2. Roger+Pierce says:

    Pre-emption clause

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