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 report then 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.
The Email exchanges can be downloaded by clicking here
Labour admits “Could have done better, should have gone further with consultation”.
The future of the Castlegate youth advisory centre has been the subject of further debate today.
A few days ago details of the number of young people using the centre over the last few years was published by the Council, together with the reason for their visit.
- Around 20 people a day use the centre.
- Over half the visits each year were connected with job searches.
- The majority of the users are aged between 16 and 19.
After an unnecessary game of pass the parcel the Labour Cabinet have tonight caved in and agreed to reprieve the youth advice service in York.
A working group is being set up to consider options for the continuation of youth advice and help services. It will first consult widely
The Council is expecting to receive proposals in early January. They will be discussed at a YorOk Board on 12th January.
The responsible Cabinet member admitted
“We need to make West Offices a better experience for visitors”
The York Council has agreed to review its decision to close the young peoples advice services provided from 29 Castlegate.
The decision to move services to “West Offices” was heavily criticised by opposition Councillors at a meeting yesterday.
The decision is the second major rethink on policy – following the decision to reject Labours Local Plan – which has resulted from Labour losing control of the Council.
Opposition parties on the York Council have called in for reconsideration a plan to close the Castlegate youth advice and help centre.
The meeting will take place on 31st October and the reports can be read by clicking here
The Castlegate centre provides information, support and counselling for young people aged between 16-25 in York,
Probably the main issue concerns the proposal to transfer some youth advice services to West Offices.
It is difficult to think of a less suitable location.
The building can be intimidating, reception arrangements busy (see article above) and occasionally chaotic – despite the best endeavours of staff.
It is also noisy because of the atrium design.
The Council may wish to move the service to a more affordable location but West Offices would be a poor choice.
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.