One of the properties owned by the Council which has remained empty and unused for a long period of time – 29 Castlegate – looks like it will remain so indefinitely. Budget provision to upgrade the property – which occupies a key position next to Fairfax House – is being taken out of this year’s programme.
Apparently a decision, on the future of the building, will be taken at a meeting next month.
The property, which most recently accommodated a youth support centre, was to have been sold, with the York Civic Trust the most likely occupant. That deal fell through amidst claims that the Council were not getting “best value” for the property.
The Council now says that the refurbishment work cannot start until the next financial year. £270,000 has been allocated for repairs to the building
It remains unclear why the Council did not try to sell the property on the open market and why no attempt has been made to find at least a temporary use for what is a prime site.
29 Castlegate, which is located next to Fairfax House, and is owned by the City of York Council continues to be left empty.
Hopes that the property might be purchased by the York Conservation
Trust have disappeared following a change of Chief Executive. They had been expected
to purchase the iconic building for around £431,000. The discounted sale price was
justified in 2017 by claims that significant repair works were needed.
At the same time, the York Civic Trust said that they were
set to lease the building with an investment of £2.8 million to be made, as part
of an expansion of activities at Fairfax House.
It became clear 6 months ago that the York Civic Trust had suspended their plans.
The building – which also benefits from a valuable showroom
frontage onto the Coppergate Shopping Centre – was used for many years as a photographic
gallery. When the gallery moved to Bradford, the Council allocated the space to
be used as a youth advice centre.
The building has remained empty for over 3 years. Potentially
this has cost the Council tens of thousands of pounds in rent and rates income.
Addressing the problems with empty Council owned properties should be a top priority for the new administration when it is elected this week. Too many expensive, high profile, properties like 29 Castlegate and the Guildhall have been left to rot. In future York Councillors must insist on receiving an “unused asset” report on a regular basis. It needs to be transparent.
If the Civic Trust deal on Castlegate has fallen through, then the property should either be leased or sold on the open market.
Because of its prestigious location there is likely to be a lot of interest.
This might include bringing part of the building back into residential use. With apartments at the nearby fire station site selling for over £700,000 each, the opportunities at this address will be obvious to many developers.
As long ago as 2012 The Council started negotiations to move its youth facilities centre from premises in Castlegate. Various other locations were considered for the centre before the Castlegate building was declared surplus to requirements about 3 years ago.
The youth facilities were subsequently relocated to Sycamore House.
A series of email exchanges revealed the extent of the “behind closed doors” dealings that the then Labour controlled council had been involved in during 2012.
By April 2017 a Council report revealed that the empty building was worth around £575,000 on the open market.
The reportthen went on to justify a sale to the York Conservation Trust for a reduced £431,000 claiming that major repairs were required.
The York Civic Trust promised a £2.8 million upgrade to the building and the adjacent Fairfax House (already owned by the Trust).
This would stimulate tourism for the general benefit of the City centre economy.
So, getting on for 2 years later, what progress has been made?
Very little it seems, with two peak shopping seasons having passed without what is a key location being exploited.
Taxpayers will want to be reassured that the deal, agreed nearly two years ago, is still on course to provide the benefits claimed by officials.
The former youth advice centre premises at 29 Castlegate are set to be sold to the York Conservation Trust for over £431,000.
The building was the centre of a controversy three years ago when the Council seemed to be set on moving the youth advice service to unsuitable premises at West Offices in order to force a sale.
That issue now seems to have been resolved leaving the building – which is adjacent to Fairfax House – empty.
The York Civic Trust intend to expand their Fairfax House operations into the building
A council report says that the open market valuation of the property is £575,000 but the discount can be justified by the new use for the building which will stimulate tourism and education visits to the City and its nearby attractions.
The new owners face bills of around £40,000 for repairs and redecoration of the property over the next 5 years.
It is expected that around £2.8 million will be invested in Fairfax House and the adjacent building. The work will include providing full disabled access facilities.
This seems to be a satisfactory solution to an issue which was surrounded in secrecy when considered by the last Council administration.
Fairfax House (left) and Youth Advice Centre (right)
The York Council has been forced to publish internal emails on its proposed sale of the youth centre in Castlegate to the Civic Trust.
The Emails reveal that secret negotiations started as early as 2012, when an alternative building for the youth facilities centre was identified in Monkgate (later the Council said the centre should move to West Offices).
The Email trail also reveals that the Council had not agreed a market value for the Castlegate premises, nor had the Trust made a formal offer.
Given the under-estimate of the value of the Oliver House building, that alone will raise some questions about the plan.
Liberal Democrat and Green councillors are calling on Labour to rethink a decision to close the Castlegate Centre in York.
Last week the Labour Cabinet rubber-stamped proposals to shut Castlegate.
The centre was opened by the Liberal Democrat Council in 2007 and offers information, support, advice and counselling to young adults aged 16 to 25.
Under the plans, counselling services will be cut and then transferred to West Offices. An online petition urging the council to withdraw the plans has already attracted more than 350 signatures. (more…)
“Events bring residents ideas to life on public spaces”
The Council has issued the following statement about (still more) consultation events about the future of the Eye of York and the Castle car park area. The Council is pursuing its “world class open space” vision which involves the closure of York’s best used car park.
The current concern is that if people shun the City centre, or it simply becomes a regional “playground”, then we could end up with a world class empty space.
The Council is currently waiting to see whether central government will stump up the cost of the project.
An announcement is expected towards the end of next week. One of the designs that has been leaked suggests that a highly imaginative approach can be expected.
The Council says “My Castle Gateway continues to put residents views at the heart of plans to transform the car park, Eye of York and the wider area.
Run in partnership with local group My Future York, it has led to bold plans being put forward to transform the area, including creating community and business space on Piccadilly, new walkways and cycle-routes, and a bridge over the Foss.
The engagement approach returns this month, as designers BDP explore the options for the world class public space around Clifford’s Tower and Eye of York.
Residents are invited to join the conversation on social media or attend online events to explore options to deliver some of the big themes from the community brief: