Empty Council owned Castlegate property – future still uncertain

29 Castlegate, which is located next to Fairfax House, and is owned by the City of York Council continues to be left empty.
29 Castlegate

Hopes that the property might be purchased by the York Conservation Trust have disappeared following a change of Chief Executive. They had been expected to purchase the iconic building for around £431,000. The discounted sale price was justified in 2017 by claims that significant repair works were needed.

At the same time, the York Civic Trust said that they were set to lease the building with an investment of £2.8 million to be made, as part of an expansion of activities at Fairfax House.

It became clear 6 months ago that the York Civic Trust had suspended their plans.

The building – which also benefits from a valuable showroom frontage onto the Coppergate Shopping Centre – was used for many years as a photographic gallery. When the gallery moved to Bradford, the Council allocated the space to be used as a youth advice centre.

In 2012 the, then Labour controlled Council, commenced negotiations to move the youth facilities elsewhere. The proposal was widely condemned.

The building has remained empty for over 3 years. Potentially this has cost the Council tens of thousands of pounds in rent and rates income.

Addressing the problems with empty Council owned properties should be a top priority for the new administration when it is elected this week. Too many expensive, high profile, properties like 29 Castlegate and the Guildhall have been left to rot. In future York Councillors must insist on receiving an “unused asset” report on a regular basis. It needs to be transparent.

If the Civic Trust deal on Castlegate has fallen through, then the property should either be leased or sold on the open market.

Because of its prestigious location there is likely to be a lot of interest.

This might include bringing part of the building back into residential use.  With apartments at the nearby fire station site selling for over £700,000 each, the opportunities at this address will be obvious to many developers.

Either way, something needs to be done quickly.

Castlegate sale – Now Council and Civic Trust have more questions to answer


Castlegate

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.

What’s on in York: Silver Screen Festival 2019

Fairfax House, February

Silver Screen 2019 takes a walk on the wild side, drawing inspiration from the animal kingdom: from Hollywood’s furry and four-legged acting legends, great and small, to the creatures who inspired cult classic titles such as Bringing Up Baby, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, and National Velvet to name a few.  With 11 classic films being screened, there is sure to be something to tempt you!

Click here for brochure

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What’s on in York: Christmas Twilight Tour

Nov _22Xmas

Fairfax House

Tue 20 Nov and Tue 27 Nov 

7.00pm – 8.30pm

£14.00 (Members: £12.00)

Join the Director, Hannah Phillip, for a Twilight Tour of Fairfax House and learn more about the celebrations and traditions of a Georgian Christmas. Enjoy seeing Fairfax House after dark in all its festive glory, and hear about the merrymaking, decorations, feasting and activities that surrounded this festival in the eighteenth century.

Also enjoy mulled wine and mince pies served in the Georgian Kitchen.

For more information visit our website please

Christmas Evening Extravaganza

Fairfax House :

Thu 29 Nov :

5.30pm – 8.30pm :

General museum admission applies.

Nov _29ChristmasCome in from the cold and escape the crowds as Fairfax House stays open late for an evening of festivities. What better time to soak up the atmosphere of our magical Keeping of Christmas than by candlelight.

There will be music, mulled wine and mince pies. You can also enjoy making a spiced orange pomander to take home, as well as having the opportunity to see our Townhouse Mouse artist, Nick Ellwood, at work and the launch of his brand newChristmas illustration. Not least of all there will be discounts in the shop with up 20% off.

Adult: £7.50, Concession: £6.00, Child: £3.00

Family Ticket (2 Adults and up to 3 Children): £17.50

For more information visit our website please

What’s on in York – Light Incidents: Jokes in Eighteenth-century British Portraiture

Nov _14Light

Fairfax House :

Wed 14 Nov :

7.00pm – 8.30pm :

£14.00 (Members: £12.00, Students: £8.00)

We often think of portraiture as a very serious, self-promotional business, but a number of small ‘conversation piece’ portraits from the eighteenth century engaged with the lighter side of life. Sitters often liked to express their good humour, and required artists to engage with the ‘in jokes’ they shared with family and friends. Kate Retford, author of The Conversation Piece, recently published by Yale University Press (2017) will explore the humour to be found in these paintings, from puns through to pratfalls.

For more information please visit our website.

What’s on in York – EXHIBITION: The Keeping of Christmas

Nov _13Christmas

Fairfax House :

Tue 13 Nov – Sun 30 Dec :

Opening Times :

General museum admission applies.

Experience Fairfax House in all its splendour as it celebrates The Keeping of Christmas with a magnificent festive installation inspired by the traditions of the eighteenth century. See the Georgians’ love of the natural world as they decorated their homes for Christmas, as well as their festive food, extravagant dining table displays, elegant decorations, and remarkable Twelfth Night Cake.

Enjoy mulled wine, mince pies and brandy butter served in The Georgian Kitchen throughout the season.

Adult: £7.50, Concession: £6.00, Child: £3.00

Family Ticket (2 Adults and up to 3 Children): £17.50

For more information visit our website please.

What’s on in York: Masterclass – The Glory of Gilding A Beginners Guide

Nov _8Guilding

Fairfax House :

Thu 8 Nov :

5.30pm – 9.00pm :

£50.00 (Members: £45.00)

Rob Oldfield, master gilder, explores the art of gilding and the magic of gold leaf by candlelight in the eighteenth-century house. This practical masterclass will introduce you to the different uses and traditional techniques of laying gold leaf. Under Rob’s tuition you will develop the skills to be confident in undertaking your own projects and bring the magic of gilding into your own home. By the conclusion participants will have their own gilded decorative Christmas ornament to take home. All materials for this workshop are included as well as a hearty soup & sandwich supper, wine and refreshments.

This event is not suitable for children.

For further information please visit our website.

What’s on in York: Unfortunate Princes

Sep _27Princes

Fairfax House :

Thu 27 Sep :

7.00pm – 8.30pm :

£14.00 (Members: £12.00, Students: £8.00)

By 1745, the son of the deposed James II & VII, Prince James Francis Edward Stuart, the Old Pretender, had been living in exile for over 55 years, firstly in France – ‘the support and shelter of unfortunate princes’ – and then Rome. This lecture will discuss the background and progress of the most famous attempt to restore the senior and Catholic branch of the Stuart Dynasty by the Old Pretender’s son Charles Edward Stuart – Bonnie Prince Charlie – during the turbulent years of 1745-6.

Dr Jacqueline Riding is an Honorary Research Fellow at Birkbeck College, University of London and alumna of the University of York (PhD). She is the author of the award-winning Jacobites: A New History of the ’45 Rebellion (Bloomsbury 2016), trustee of the Jacobite Studies Trust and senior editor of Jacobite Studies (Manchester University Press).

Jaqueline Riding: http://www.jacquelineriding.com/

Twitter @jaqriding

To book tickets please click here.

What’s on in York: Dr Johnson as a Guide to Life

Sep _7Johnson

Fairfax House :

Fri 7 Sep :

7.00pm – 8.30pm :

£14.00 (Members: £12.00, Students: £8.00)

Samuel Johnson was a critic, an essayist, a poet and a biographer. A polymath and a great conversationalist, his intellectual and social curiosity were boundless. Yet he was a deeply melancholy man, haunted by dark thoughts, sickness and a diseased imagination.

In his own life, both public and private, he sought to choose a virtuous and prudent path, negotiating everyday hazards and temptations. His writings and aphorisms illuminate what it means to lead a life of integrity, and his experience, abundantly documented by him and by others, is a lesson in the art of regulating the mind and the body.

Henry Hitchings was born in 1974. He has written mainly about language and history, starting in 2005 with Dr Johnson’s DictionaryThe Secret Life of Words (2008) won the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize and a Somerset Maugham Award, as well as seeing him shortlisted for the title of Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year. 2011′s The Language Wars completed what was in effect a trilogy of books about language. He is a prolific critic and has made several programmes for radio and television, on subjects including Erasmus Darwin, the eighteenth-century English novel and the history of manners. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.

Twitter: @henryhitchings

Website: http://henryhitchings.com/index.html

To book tickets please click here