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