York Council set to reject bid to build on Green Belt land in Acomb

1.1 The site occupies part of an agricultural field on the south side of Boroughbridge Road (A59), positioned at the edge of the suburban area on the west side of the city.

There is housing to the east; Trenchard Road being closest, and Muddy Boots nursery to the west of the site.

Beyond the site, there is further agricultural land to the west and then a petrol station and commercial unit positioned at the junction where the A59 meets the outer ring road.

To the south is agricultural land between the suburban edge and the outer ring road.

Opposite the site on the north side of the A59 is the former Civil Service site, which has planning permission for housing development (266 dwellings approved under application 14/02979/FULM).

The site is within the general extent of the Green Belt.

The development plan for the area is the Upper and Nether Poppleton Neighbourhood Plan. Within the plan the site is designated as being within the Green Belt.

The site is also within land identified as Green Belt in un-adopted local plans – the 2005 Draft Local Plan and the 2018 Publication Draft Local Plan (DLP).

The application proposes 60 dwellings, with a single access point for vehicles from the A59 and associated public open space in the centre of the site and opposite the A59. The vehicle access would be opposite the approved access for the housing site at former civil service site.

The application (click) is recommended for refusal at a meeting which is taking place on 3rd December.

NB. The same meeting will have a second go at determining a planning application for the Castle Mills Car park site. This is a proposal from the Council itself and was deferred to allow further input from the professional advisers. It would see 106 apartments built and is recommended for approval.

York transport and planning policies stalling

 The decision of the York Councils planning committee to delay a decision, on a plan to replace the Castle Car park with a multi storey alternative at St Georges Field, throws into contrast the conflicting policies of the present Council.

The multi-story option emerged after nearly 2 years of public agonising. £2.2 million has already been spent on design work, consultants fees and consultation costs. The resulting plan didn’t suit everyone (including us) but it did present a way forward.

Multi storey car parks are usually ugly, there can be security issues, they concentrate vehicle movements onto limited sections of the road network and – in the case of the St Georges Field site –  park visitors to far away from their ultimate destinations whether that be shops, work or hospitality outlets.

The Council had submitted its planning application despite already acknowledging that changes to the Castle car might have to wait until the, Coronavirus prompted recession, has eased.

No great problem.

The Castle car park has been there for decades and it is the parking location of first choice for many shoppers and visitors. In July and August this summer it was rammed full.

Castle car park full to overflowing this summer

Now a Planning Committee has rejected the St Georges Field plan by 8 votes to 7. The key vote was cast by Cllr J Barker a hitherto low profile LibDem Councillor from Poppleton. The same meeting also deferred consideration of a new housing scheme on the former Castle Mills car park site.

That car park was lost to general use over a year ago and is still unavailable.

Like the odd decision last year, when Labour Councillors bounced the Council into pledging to stop through traffic from using Lendal Bridge, the impracticalities and contradictions in policy now threatened the economic recovery of the City.

The Council has said it will spend £40,000 consulting on the future of car parking in the City centre. If it appoints consultants to undertake the exercise then they will come under pressure from sectional interest groups including the “folksy fringe” who really don’t want any city centre car parking provision at all.

Personal transport remains the preferred mode for getting around for many people. Post COVID, cycling levels have fallen and public transport use has collapsed.

Meanwhile the number of City centre shops going into administration is creeping upwards.

The beginning of the new year – traditionally a poor time of year for traders – may see even more businesses facing ruin.

Some consistency from the York Council is required to avoid an economic collapse

Guildhall £20 million financing package collapsing

A late report submitted to a Council scrutiny meeting yesterday admitted that a proposal restaurant at a remodelled Guildhall is unlikely to find an occupant at least in the short term.

The rental from the restaurant formed a key part of the financial package for he project which has been criticised for being over ambitious and risky.

Option 1 was agreed by the Council in 2018

It now seems that the income will be significantly less than forecast with building delays and cost over runs still to be added into the equation.

Taxpayers were already facing an annual subsidy cost of around £600,000.

Yesterday’s report

The new complex is now not expected to be competed before the summer of 2021.

Details of the project can be found by clicking here

The report also reviews the future of the Castle Gateway and York Central projects. The former is currently “paused”. Given the parlous state of the councils finances the authority would be wise to freeze expenditure on this plan leaving things as they are for a while at least.

Opportunities may arise over the next few years to sell the Castle Mills and 17/21 Piccadilly sites as the economy improves

The key is to remain flexible if taxpayers interests are to be protected.

In the meantime parking revenue remains vital for the Councils budget while accessible car parking at Castle and (potentially) Castle Mills (surface level) and 17/21 Piccadilly could be an important part of the attempt to revive the City economy.

Castle “Gateway” development will cost £55 million

Officials recommend York Council borrows £45.8 million to fund major development

The York Council is being asked to fund phase 1 of the Castle Gateway development next week. The development includes

  • Providing the replacement MSCP at St George’s Field that will allow Castle Car Park to close and be replaced with new public realm
  • A new pedestrian cycle crossing over the inner-ring road
  • A new pedestrian cycle bridge over the Foss
  • A new public park at the rear of the Castle Museum and a riverside pocket park on Piccadilly
  • 106 new apartments at Castle Mills – 20 of which would be new council housing – above street level commercial spaces suitable for small independent traders
  • New apartments above further commercial spaces at 17-21 Piccadilly

Contrary to expectations, the Council is planning to undertake the development itself putting potentially £55 million of taxpayer’s money at risk.

Masterplan for Castle Gateway

There is an estimated viability gap of £3.3 million even if all flats and commercial spaces are sold. £532,000 will be spent diverting a sewer on St Georges Field.

20 Council apartments would be built at Castle Mills at an estimated cost of £3.7 million.

The “delivery strategy” for the, long unused, 17-21 Piccadilly site (currently occupied by Spark) would not be determined before summer 2020. Officials want to build apartments above ground floor commercial units on the site. It is not clear why such a development could not be private sector led (reducing risks to taxpayers).

There is a danger that the Council, is now giving some elements of the £1.5 million “Masterplan” a “Moses” status.

The location of the £2.4 million Foss bridge, the £1.5 million Castle Museum park and the (frankly slightly odd) £800,000 inner ring road surface level crossing may all be nice to have but they are scarcely essential.

Even the multi storey car park at £14.2 million now looks like a very expensive way of facilitating the provision of a new park.

Simply selling the development sites – as surely the Council should have done with 17-21 Piccadilly by now – would produce a receipt of £6.6 million. This might be a useful insurance if the Councils other reckless property gambles (like the refurbishment of the Guildhall) go belly up.

Other major Council funding commitments like York Central and the outer ring-road are also imminent.

If the Council decides to go forward with the recommendations, then they would be wise to adopt a parallel path approach and seek alternative proposals from the market.

They would then be in a position to make an informed choice when they make a final decision later in the year.

A small change in the national economic picture could leave the Council with empty properties and no way of paying interest charges on its borrowings, without prompting massive public service cuts.

The Castle Mill development is scheduled to be completed in spring 2023; a few weeks before the next Council elections are scheduled to take place.

Plans to transform Castle Mills submitted

Castle Mills

The council has submitted its plans to create a new public park at the rear of the Castle Museum, a new pedestrian and cycle bridge over the Foss, commercial spaces for local independent traders, and 106 new apartments, including new council housing.

This is another major milestone in the delivery of the regeneration of the Castle Gateway. As well as bringing life to the old Castle Mills car park site and a place for growing York businesses on Piccadilly, the residential development would fund the construction of a new multi-storey car park on St George’s Field.

This parking would then allow Castle car park to close and be replaced by additional public space.

The Castle Mills plans would see two residential apartment blocks built, with the entire southern block of 20 apartments being new council housing. The northern block will include 86 flats ranging in size from 1 bed apartments to 2 bed duplexes.  The ground floor of both apartment blocks will feature commercial spaces.

The council are taking a lead on environmental sustainability, with homes benefiting from renewable energy sources and the proposals providing a car free development with high level of cycle parking.

The proposals also include a new pedestrian and cycle bridge over the river Foss linking up with the new pedestrian/cycle crossing over the inner ring and connecting up wider cycle routes to create safer and sustainable journeys in to and through the city centre.

The bridge will also link across to the area at the rear of the Castle Museum. This space, which is currently part of the museum grounds, will be opened to the public as a new riverside park, creating a place to relax in the shadow of the Castle Walls.

The proposals have been shaped and developed with stakeholders, partners and residents through the innovative My Castle Gateway public engagement project. The design will create new landmark riverside buildings for Piccadilly whilst generating the financial return to help pay for the regeneration proposals for the Castle Gateway.  

The main features of the masterplan are:

  • replacing Castle Car Park with a multi-storey car park and visitor arrival point on St George’s Field
  • Castle Car Park and the Eye of York to become a new public space, hosting events throughout the year
  • a new residential and leisure building visually enhancing and covering the servicing yard at the rear of the Coppergate Centre
  • a new riverside walk by the Foss from the south of the city and a pedestrian/cycle bridge connecting with Piccadilly
  • bringing life to the Foss Basin, including a new apartment development
  • new commercial and residential developments on the sites of Castle Mills Car Park and 17-21 Piccadilly
  • significant improvements to public spaces and streets throughout the area

After the planning application has been validated by the council’s planning team in the coming days, it will be available to view at www.york.gov.uk/planning under reference number 19/02415/FUL

Further information can be found on the My Castle Gateway project at www.york.gov.uk/CastleGatewayCastleMills