WiFi for York community stadium…..but at a high cost

Those who attend stadium events on a regular basis will know that getting a reliable phone signal can be difficult. Even 4G is often not always available particularly in steel framed buildings. A free WiFi signal can be a boon for those seeking the half time scores from elsewhere or seeking to email an update home on how well the concert is going.

 Next week the Council is being asked to fund the provision of free WiFi access at the new stadium as well as at Clifford’s Tower and Coppergate.

The cost will be over £308,000, with £250,000 of this down to the Community Stadium network.

WiFi is currently available at local Community Hubs, Children Centres, Explore (Library) Centres and Libraries, Residential Care homes, Mansion House, Park and Ride Terminuses, West offices, Hazel Court, Registry Office and Crematorium.

Some schools also have the service but it is not universal.

There will be some scepticism about the budget priority for this programme. No usage figures for the existing free network are provided in the officer report.

There are other IT related services in the City which are arguably more urgently needed including the extension of the Councils “on line” issue reporting system and the reintroduction of “on line” and “on street” car park space availability information.

The Council even claims that it doesn’t have the technology to do routine things like the provision of a real time list of vacant garages on its web site.

These may all seem rather more urgent than allowing a tourist to browse the web from the top of Clifford’s Tower.

There will also be an ongoing debate about whether the costs of installing this facility should be a charge on users rather than taxpayers more generally?

COUNCIL TO CONSIDER WITHDRAWING LAND FOR SALE AROUND CLIFFORD’S TOWER

We reported with incredulity in October 2016 that the plans were set to get the go ahead

Final nail in coffin of ugly visitor centre – controversial land sale set to be reversed

The land is part of Clifford’s Tower car-park and was originally part of a package to support English Heritage plans to build a £5.2m visitor centre at the foot of the tower.  English Heritage announced their intention to stop development plans after the council revealed plans for Castle Gateway”.

Cllr Ian Gillies and Cllr Andrew Waller, Leader and Deputy Leader of City of York Council jointly confirmed:

“English Heritage have made clear they no longer plan to build a visitor centre at the foot of Clifford’s Tower.  After English Heritage announced their intention to no longer proceed, residents told us they were concerned construction could still go ahead as planning was still in force.  As a result we have decided to review the offer of leasehold of the land making it clear that the original visitor centre plans will not go ahead.    We remain committed to working in partnership with English Heritage about this important site and it is hoped that the Executive will decide not  to proceed with the land sale.”

Victory for common sense as ugly visitor centre building is abandoned

We reported with incredulity in October 2016 that the plans were set to get the go ahead

Plans to construct a visitor centre next to Clifford’s Tower have been dropped.

The English Heritage plan attracted major opposition from a wide range of organisations and people in the City.

One independent Councillor (Jonny Haynes) even challenged the proposal though the courts.

Now the new head of English Heritage in the north of England is being reported in the media as saying that the plan has been scrapped.

Generally the other proposals for Clifford’s Tower sponsored by EH were welcomed. These included improvements to internal accessibility and repairs to the buildings fabric. In principle, many acknowledged that a visitor centre would enhance the experience for the tourist but the location of the building, immediately adjacent to the iconic mound, was considered by many to be overly intrusive.

The building’s design was described as a combination of  a 1960’s public toilet and the Temple of Queen Hatshepsut in the Valley of the Kings 

The decision offers the opportunity to provide something more appropriate as the Castle Car park area is remodelled over the next few years.

The Clifford’s Tower controversy was one of several lapses of judgement by the York planning committee in recent years. They also nodded through a plan to establish an Arts Barge bar near Skeldergate Bridge despite concerns about alcohol and river safety.

However, in most peoples minds, that will pale when compared to the major blunder made in giving planning permission to  “Container Village” currently blighting the appearance  of Parliament Street.

Castle/Piccadilly round 3

Economic impact assessment on City Centre economy missing

After a delay of 18 years, the Council are to make another attempt to get planning permission for a redevelopment of the Castle/Piccadilly area (Castle Gateway).

It is long overdue.

The City centre has changed a lot since the last planning application failed at a public Inquiry.

Two decades ago it seemed that the City centre economy would continue to depend on the retail sector to provide its main attraction. There were hopes that “anchor” large stores provided in the Piccadilly area would sustain the retail economy in the face of competition from out of town stores and the, then just emerging, trend to shop “on line”.

But that option has all but disappeared. Larger shops in the City centre are finding conditions difficult with the once premier destination – Coney Street – now containing several long term empty units.

The Council has therefore rightly published plans for the Castle area which do not relay principally on retail development.

Instead, yesterday, a much-leaked report majors on City centre living space, a possible Castle Museum extension and some independent shopping units.  There is no place for the hoped-for airspeed museum which could have occupied the ground floor of the 17/21 Piccadilly possibly as part of a restaurant use – a possible missed opportunity given the need to stimulate visits to the Elvington airfield museum.

The Castle car park will close with the design team saying that the resultant green space will provide an entertainment space for 365 days a year (revealing a touchingly optimistic view of climate change).

There may be a similar level of wishful thinking in proposing to build apartments and a £10 million multi story car park with 400 spaces on the flood plain on St Georges field, although the plans to allow public swimming in the Foss Basin may provide a prescient transport option for occupants when water levels are high.

The officers report says, “any funding gap in delivering the full ambition of the masterplan can be responded to through scaling back the proposals, identifying external funding sources, or the council providing capital funding through the budget setting process

The estimated total costs of the project – which are the costs of delivering the entire public realm, infrastructure, and the new MSCP – is £30m. The potential gross surplus income from the council owned residential and commercial development opportunities is £22.5m”.

So where next?

There are several good ideas in the Council’s published plan which deserve to be developed further. The first step should be to publish a candid impact statement indicating how other City centre businesses will be affected.

The number of public parking spaces available is crucial. The Castle car park is York’s best used despite the surface being badly rutted. It produces over £1.2 million in revenue for the Council. To this should be added an income stream from the Castle Mills car park (recently closed). The Piccadilly car park has been less well used since the advance space availability signs stopped working 4 years ago.

Adequate car parking capacity is vital for the retail economy and visitor attractions (which are open outside park and ride hours). People don’t expect to have to carry heavy luggage or shopping for long distances.  Walking distances are important. The proposed 4 story car park at St Georges field would be a 716 metre walk to the end of Parliament Street. By comparison the distance from Piccadilly is 95 metres, from the Castle car park is 275 metres and from Castle Mills 461 metres.

The is always a danger in publishing idealised artist impressions of new developments. They invariably portray a mature green environment on a sunny summers day. The reality on a wet, November evening may be markedly less attractive.

The Council must now do two things before it proceeds any further

  1. It must produce a realistic (best case/worst case) economic impact assessment &
  2. It must abandon any thought of being the developer for the commercial elements of the scheme. It has already been shown to be inept both at the Guildhall (project abandoned, £12 million of taxpayers money at risk) and the Monks Cross stadium development (public subsidy increased from zero in 2010 to at least £13 million today) Let the professionals get on with it.

Otherwise it is a worthy attempt to reconcile wildly differing opinions on a site which is crying out for redevelopment.

Layout plans

The shipping containers are coming – shock as “Containergate” shopping plan gets Council leadership backing

New proposal for Castle car park development

Sea containers to be parked on Piccadilly?

Shipping containers to be parked on Piccadilly

The York Council’s Executive has tonight approved plans to site shipping containers on Piccadilly.  They will form a shopping and business centre on the former Reynard’s garage site and could be there for 3 years.

Guildhall ward Labour and Green Councillors supported the proposal!

The project is subject to planning approval.

Normally residents would expect the Planning committee to throw out such an insensitive plan. They did insist that landscaping be improved around the  same site when permission was granted to demolish the garage building a year or so ago.

However, the committee’s recent decision to approve a poor quality visitor centre building, at a nearby Clifford’s Tower site, means that they cannot be relied on to protect this part of the City.

The Executive’s decision means that the short term plans to use the Piccadilly site as a car park for blue badge (disabled) drivers is unlikely to be progressed.

santa-in-container-in-york

New Castle car park development plan

New plans for the development of the Castle car park have been announced. They have been inspired by the emerging shipping container architectural movement as well as the English Heritage public convenience school of design

cliffords-tpwer-and-new-building

Prominent York residents and organisations have had their say on the plans.

  • English Heritage – The vertical columns ideally complement the similar design feature on our visitor centre. The Maersk elevations offer a complex counterpoint to the Norman buttresses on the Castle. All in all, something we would be proud of.
  • R Cooke (Author, Changing the Face of the City) – An impressive example of neo-Immingham brutalism.  Helicopter pads should remove need for direction signs. May require some refinement and relocation to Rotterdam
  • York Georgian Society – The containers are only acceptable if they have previously been used to transport molasses or slaves.
  • Walter Brierley (architect, deceased) – Just a minute I need to rotate a few times
  • Rachel Rascal (MP) – Hang on I’ll have to check. How big is the bandwagon of the opponents of the plan? How many wheels does the supporters bandwagon have? ……..  Oh dear this is a bit difficult.
  • C Steward (Con) – Ruddy liberals. mention mutual social enterprise and they’ll all over it.
  • N Ayre (Lib) – It is wonderfully intrusive. A little higher and it would block out that ghastly Cathedral building.

Glimmer of hope for anti Cliffords Tower visitor centre campaigners

...& the planning committee decided to approve the new visitor centre at Clifford's Tower. A decision which promoted derision in some quaters

It looks like residents will get a second chance to block the proposed Clifford’s Tower Visitor Centre.

It has been revealed today that the York Council will have to agree to sell a small area of land to English Heritage if the centre is to be built.

The Council’s Executive is scheduled to consider the sale at its meeting on 7th December.

It is widely believed in the City that the project went through the planning process without its implications being properly understood by most residents.

Now the Council has the opportunity to put matters right.

Several thousand residents have signed petitions criticising the design of the visitor centre which has widely been described as resembling a Public Convenience block .

Other aspects of the project – which would see Clifford’s Tower itself become much more accessible to visitors – have received  higher levels of public support.

Campaigners will be hoping that the centre can be redesigned -and possibly realigned – to reduce its visual impact on the ancient monument.

 

So they’re really going to do this to Cliffords Tower!

cliffords-tower-york-plans-front

Council officials are recommending that the controversial new visitor centre at Clifford’s Tower should get the “go ahead”

Clifford Tower Georgian Society quoteIn a report to next weeks planning  committee, they propose to overrule the views of just about every major conservation group in the City.

Those objecting to the English Heritage plan include:

  • YORK CIVIC TRUST
  •  THE SOCIETY FOR THE PROTECTION OF ANCIENT BUILDINGS
  • YORK GEORGIAN SOCIETY
  • GUILDHALL PLANNING PANEL
  • RIVER FOSS SOCIETY

Guildhall planning panelIn the main the objections refer to the loss of a unique view of the City although some criticise the architectural approach. Several say any visitor centre should form part of an holistic approach incorporating improvements to the adjacent car park.

The repairs and improvements planned for the Tower itself have generally been welcomed.

cliffords-tower-york-stairs

The proposed visitor centre has been criticised as intrusive and out of scale

 

 

Back to the future for English Heritage Clifford’s Tower visitor centre

Temple of Queen Hatshepsut - Colonnade 1458 BC

Temple of Queen Hatshepsut, Valley of the Kings – 1458 BC

Temple of English Heritage Clifford's Tower visitor centre 2016 AD

Temple of English Heritage. Clifford’s Tower visitor centre 2016 AD

Presumably the proposed visitor centre at Clifford’s Tower is another idea from that part of English Heritage which, a few years ago, thought putting a flagpole on top of the tower – on which to fly their corporate logo – was a good idea!