Reynard’s Garage, 17-21 Piccadilly comprises a substantial early 20th Century masonry and steel portal framed structure lying within the Historic Core Conservation Area to the south west of the River Foss and the City Centre.
In a report to a planning committee next week, Council officials say, “It is of some townscape importance as part of a group of early 20th Century industrial buildings and of some historical importance through its association with early aircraft manufacture by Airspeed Ltd and the author Neville Shute. It was initially constructed as a Trolley Bus Depot but following on from the withdrawal of the network in the early 1930s was converted to industrial use. The building is referred to in the Central Historic Core Conservation Area Appraisal although an attempt to have it Listed as being of Historic or Architectural Interest through Historic England has previously proved unsuccessful due to the lack of survival of its historic detailing and its very poor structural condition. It is in very poor structural repair and has been vacant for approximately 20 years”.
The report also says,
“it is clear that the fabric of the building is beyond repair for reuse, and the building is in the short term highly likely to collapse without major intrusive supporting works”
Officials recommend “any permission be conditioned to require short term development comprising the landscaping of the site including an element of interpretation of its role in the development of the modern City”.
They go on to recommend the demolition of the building.
Any short term use is likely to be restricted to either car parking of use as a coach drop off point. Council officials seem to think it will become a “landscaped area” although the costs and source of funding for such a temporary use are unclear.
The Council recently withdrew from its forward decision programme proposals to create a “Masterplan” covering the whole of the Piccadilly area.
While developers are known to have tabled comprehensive proposals for the area – including the conversion of Ryedale House into residential accommodation – it seems unlikely that the proposals will be considered in the near future.
In the meantime the derelict site should be made safe and put to a positive use which is neither an eyesore nor a burden on taxpayers..
It looks like the York Council may be about to try to revive the Castle/Piccadilly development project.
An item on their forward programme suggests that a rebranded “Southern Gateway” scheme will be considered at a meeting taking place on 24th September
The project has historically involved an area of land bordered by Piccadilly, Coppergate, Clifford Street and the inner ring road. It includes the former tram depot/airspeed factory, the Castle car park and Piccadilly House. There is some speculation that the area under consideration may be extended further long the banks of the Foss to tap the burgeoning growth now taking place in the Hungate area.
The Council – which owns car parking land in the potential development area – has attempted on two previous occasions to bring forward comprehensive redevelopment proposals for the land. The last failed following a Public Inquiry some 12 years ago. In the main, criticisms reflected the impact that the development might have on Clifford’s Tower.
In the interim much of the property on Piccadilly – and particularly the area facing the Foss – have remained semi derelict. Periodically land owners have tried to get planning permission to develop the area in a piecemeal fashion but this has been resisted. One developer (LaSalle) went bust and any redevelopment stalled when the recession hit in 2008. The absence of an agreed Local Plan has not helped.
With residential property prices in the City Centre now soaring, this may now be a good time to revive the process needed to agree a new comprehensive development plan.
Former airspeed factory (also used as a tram depot and garage)
A mixture of ground floor retail with apartments above may just prove to be attractive to developers. There is likely to be pressure to include a new heritage attraction possibly making use of the historic links to the old airspeed factory (currently being demolished). The retention of adequate car parking will be seen as essential by many retailers and the idea of putting some of it underground may be worth further consideration. A pedestrian bridge over the Foss has been a recurring theme of previous proposals and would help internal circulation around the site.
Whether the York Council now has the capacity to provide a credible lead on such a major project remains to be seen. It is already deeply in debt and the new Executive’s revised budget continues to reflect the increased borrowing assumptions of their predecessors.
There also remains a question about the skills mix and experience of a workforce that has been scaled down over recent years and which is already struggling to deliver major projects like the Community Stadium, Guildhall and York Central.
Still a Masterplan for the future of this very significant site is needed, so we look forward to the publication of the latest set of ideas.