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

Proposals for disabled parking on Piccadilly published

City of York Council has published proposed changes which would introduce new disabled parking to Piccadilly.

​​​​​​The changes were approved by the council’s Executive earlier this year following extensive consultation over the impact of new counter-terrorism measures to protect people using the city centre.

Three traffic regulation orders have been published, proposing:

1) Converting the current pay and display section between Lloyds Bank and Brighthouse into:

Blue Badge parking between 11am and 6am (overnight)
Loading bay from 6am to 11am
2) Converting the existing taxi rank on the opposite side of the road to:

Blue badge parking 11am to 6pm
Taxi rank 6pm to 6am (overnight)
Loading bay 6am to 11am
A third order allows any vehicle displaying a valid disabled person’s badge to access Piccadilly beyond the Merchangate junction – a practicality so that blue badge holders are actually able to access the new parking spaces.

These should create room for up to seven vehicles displaying valid badges to park between 11am and 6am, and another two from 11am to 6pm on the taxi rank side of the road. 

The cycle parking on Piccadilly remains unchanged.

The proposals and the reasons behind them can be inspected at Reception, West Offices, Station Rise, York, during normal business hours. 

Objections or other representations specifying reasons for the objection or representation should be sent in writing to arrive no later than 27 December 2019.

Director of Economy and Place
Network Management, West Offices, Station Rise, York, YO1 6GA
Email: highway.regulation@york.gov.uk
If objections are received, the proposals will be considered at a decision session for the Executive Member for Transport in early 2020.

You can view Executive’s original decision here while the consultation results and proposed mitigation measures are contained within Annex B.

NB. The future of the Airspeed site when the Spark container village leaves next summer has yet to be decided. It has been suggested that it could also be used for disabled car parking.

“Pay by phone” parking to be extended to “on street” spaces in York

Pay by phone transactions at the York Councils, off street, car parks now account for 27% of the income received.

Drivers mostly use cards to pay for the rest.

Free RingGo Apps halve the time it takes to pay
Parking App

The York Council is now planning to extend Phone/App payments to “on street” spaces. We think this is a move in the right direction.

A review of parking arrangements will also lead to:

  • Streamline process of extension of existing residents parking zones including recruiting extra staff
  •  Pay monthly options for Respark with screen badges scrapped referred to as paperless virtual parking (like the new VED system)
  •  the procurement of a new parking system that will introduce online self-service for customers to become the principle channel for online application and payment for parking permits, visitor vouchers, same day online payment for parking tickets, and to automate the requirement for evidence. Cash will no longer be accepted in council offices for parking permits and all penalty charge notice (PCN)
  • Provide a cashless system in Marygate car park, given most people now use card. This will be subject to the integration of permits (e.g. Minster Badge and Season tickets) into the Pay on Exit technology. Piccadilly car park may also become “pay on exit”
Marygate car park

Huge amounts of money have been spent by the Council equipment and barriers at Marygate in recent years to provide a “pay on exit” option. The equipment – for several years – provided to be unreliable although has improved since the provision of ANPR monitoring.

The report is silent on emerging issues like the provision of on street charging facilities for the growing number of electric vehicles. Some policing of off-street charging points may also be required.

The Council report claims that the move to online service only will save substantial amounts of council staff time. The report says that 50% of visits to West Offices relate to parking issues.

Nevertheless, the absence of a proper business case (including investment and revenue assumptions) , together with achievable implementation milestones, may cause concerns for some taxpayers.  

No profits for Spark?

The Council has confirmed that it has not received any payments from the Spark container village as part of the “profit sharing” arrangements agreed nearly three years ago.

The payments were expected to help offset the £40,000 of taxpayers money spent in providing electricity and other services to the site.

Spark

The first payment was due in April

The company also haven’t yet provided the cladding required by a planning condition dating back nearly 2 years. The Councils planning department is coming under increasing pressure to take enforcement action.

The Spark owners were recently quoted in the local newspaper as wanting to continue to use the site when their current lease expires in June!

100 lost car parking spaces, brutal architecture & a dodgy cycle crossing feature in latest St Georges Field plans

York residents are being invited to see the final plans for the St Georges Field and Castle Mills developments.

City of York Council is sharing plans for a multi-storey car park at St George’s Field, a new bridge over the Foss and a residential development at Castle Mills area ahead of submitting planning applications over the next two months. 

The proposed developments are “the vital first stages to deliver the centrepiece of the vision for Castle Gateway – a new public space around Clifford’s Tower and the Eye of York”.

The four-storey car park at St George’s Field is “needed to replace the parking places which would be lost on the current Castle Car Park, and would be funded through the new residential apartment developments on the site of the now demolished Castle Mills Car Park. By moving the car park, the plan would remove a number of journeys from inside the inner ring road”.

As part of the plans a new public bridge spanning the River Foss would connect Piccadilly and the rear of the Castle Museum, opening up a planned cycle and pedestrian route along the river into town.

The plans involve the loss of 100 car parking spaces to which can be added to those already lost when the Castle Mill car park was closed a couple of years ago. The multi storey car park is further away from the main shopping streets. Its lower floor is likely to be unusable when river levels are high.

How the retail community will view this reality remains to be seen.

There is a new shared cycle/pedestrian crossing at the junction with the inner ring road. The proposal fails to separate these users from general traffic, a failing also evident in the solution proposed for cycle priority in the Leeman Road/Marble Arch area.

There will be a shared cycle/pedestrian bridge across the Foss near the rear of the Castle Museum.

More controversially the artists impressions for new residential buildings on Piccadilly show an unrelentingly brutal architectural approach. It will not be to everyone’s taste.

The Council claims that the plans have been refined since they were shared at public events, online and through social media in March.

The two drop-in events feature an exhibition of the proposals and the opportunity to talk to the team about the plans. There is also the chance to take guided walks of the area to explore the developments on location:

Saturday 1 June
Drop-in 11am-2pm / Guided walks at 11:30am and 1pm
Spark : York, Piccadilly

Wednesday 5 June
Drop-in 3pm-7pm / Guided walks at 4pm and 6pm
Friends Meeting House, Friargate

Residents are invited to a drop-in session or to join the conversation on twitter @MyCastlGatewaywww.facebook.com/MyCastleGateway.

You can also view the plans online from Friday 31 May at https://www.york.gov.uk/CastleGatewayMasterplanLatest

The Castle Gateway masterplan was created after City of York Council teamed up with a local group called My Future York to develop ‘My Castle Gateway’.  The ongoing, open conversation has taken in walks, talks and conversations on social media to develop a brief and explore emerging ideas before this masterplan was finalised.

St Georges Field layout
Car Parking plans
Piccadilly/Foss development
Brutal architecture

Deadline day approaching for Spark container village

Rates, rent and profit share payments due in the next few days.

Spark April 2018

The valuation office has completed its assessment of the rateable value of the Spark container village on Piccadilly.

Figures published on their web site suggest a total valuation of £138,730.

In the normal course of events this would bring around £65,000 into the City’s coffers helping to offset the additional costs of street cleaning, refuse collection, policing etc. associated with developments of this sort.

Increases in rateable value these days bring an immediate boost for Council finances under rate retention schemes (The Council’s rate support grant has consequently been reduced to zero this year).

But will there be a boost in this case?

Valuations were apparently requested on a per container basis. This means that none of the 25 units has a rateable value of more than £12,000.

Rating list

Government regulations on rate relief for small businesses say “You will not pay business rates on a property with a rateable value of £12,000 or less”.

So, unless an occupier has a second business property elsewhere, then they may not pay any rates at all.

Empty properties are exempt from Business Rates for 3 months.

Some of the alcohol selling units on the site are said to be highly profitable. No doubt other traders operating nearby will question whether this is fair competition.

York Council officials are staying tight lipped about whether they anticipated this development.

The original Spark business pitch to the Council talked about a £71,000 profit each year. Part of this was to be used to repay the Council’s initial investment in new utility infrastructure. The first payment toward paying off this debt is due in a little over 6 weeks’ time, together with the Council’s share of what Spark claim is a “£1.5 million profit”

NB In August 2018 the Council refused a planning application from Spark to omit the wooden cladding for the containers which they had suggested as part of the original application.

Spark is currently closed on Mondays and Tuesdays. Spark list only 4 retailers who currently operate from the containers. There are also 7 food and drink outlets

Containergate rumbles on – planning appeal lodged

Spark, the operator of the shipping container “village on Piccadilly, are to appeal against the Councils decision to require them to clad the front of the containers. Spark offered the cladding when they originally sought planning permission but later changed their minds and painted “street art” on some of the containers on the Piccadilly frontage.

In May they sought retrospective planning permission for the change, but this was turned down by the Planning Committee in August. They have now appealed against that decision with the Planning Inspectorate likely to take several months to take a view. It is understood that the Council has decided not to take enforcement action in the interim

The Piccadilly site is owned by the Council, which has spent around £60,000 installing services and subsiding improvements.

The company had originally claimed they could not afford the cladding, but they have now written to prominent Councillors saying that their tenants have taken “£1.2 million” since opening, “more than twice the original forecast”.

That may be good news for taxpayers, as the Council is set to get a share of the “profits” …..but there will be no share out before April 2019 at the earliest.

It has emerged that Sparks have not yet paid any rent. They have had beneficial occupation of the site since the beginning of September 2017.

The Council have been asked to confirm that Business Rate payments are up to date.

Spark have applied for planning permission to fit a “roof” on the site.

At the same time, they have announced that they will open for only 5 days a week (closing on Tuesday and Wednesday from later this month).

There are conflicting reports about the number of small businesses which are being sustained on the site. Some have not been able to make a go of the site, with one blaming the drink culture for scaring away family customers. 3 complaints about external noise levels have been received by the Council.

Spark however claims that, of the 21 letting units, all but two are taken: 9 food, 4 drink and 6 retail outlets.

Depends whether you believe the spin, but clearly the alcohol-based units businesses got a summer boost from the World Cup and hot weather.

The lift, which will allow the village to meet disabled accessibility standards, will be operational this week according to Spark. They have, however, been unable to secure insurance which would indemnify the Council in the event of a business failure.

Council officials are content to rely on the resale value of the containers to secure taxpayers’ interests. Many of the containers have been refashioned to meet the specific needs of the Piccadilly site.

The approach taken by York Councillors, to the claims made before agreeing to lease the land to Spark, can still be viewed “on line”. The meeting which took place in November 2016 can be seen by clicking here Agenda Item 73 

Sparks York – Pressure mounts on York Council Leader

It looks like Sparks York – who are responsible for the shipping container village eyesore on Piccadilly – have just managed to get their April 2017 accounts in to Company House by the 18th December deadline. They should be available to view on line next week.

Coincidentally, The Press have run a story today based on the FOI findings published a few weeks ago. Although a representative of Sparks has made a statement saying that everything will be all right in the end, and that the Council will recover its £40,000 investment in the project, there has been no statement from the Council itself.

This is strange given that the storage containers were parked of the Council owned Piccadilly site for 2 months before  a” tenancy at will” was signed.

Nor has there been any explanation of the precedence of a debenture loan taken out by Sparks in July and its effect on the Councils equity financial safety-net.

The decision to expand the area to be leased to Sparks – effectively rent free until the “village” starts trading – was made by the Leader of the Council David Carr last week.

No attempt was made to ask for an updated business plan which reflected the much-reduced period of tenure that the village will have (assuming it ever opens for business) nor were any questions asked about the company’s financial position and debts.

It could be an uncomfortable couple of months for Cllr Carr with a difficult annual budget meeting in prospect and the repercussions from his impulsive decision to sack two LibDem members of his Cabinet, coming to a head.

It is now “time up” for the investigations into the allegations arising out an information “leak” from the York Council.

Cllr Carrs decision to ask for a police investigation – into something that could never have been a criminal matter – raises serious question about his judgement.

Now he is also being implicated in the emerging West Yorkshire Combined Authority/LEP financial scandal highlighted by the Yorkshire Post at the weekend.

Incredibly the Authority seems to be flirting with the long discredited estate agent’s jamboree (Le Marché International des Professionnels de l’immobilier) which takes place in Cannes each year.

Attendance at the hugely expensive jamboree was a factor in bringing down the last Labour administration in the City.

According to one source, the West Yorkshire authority (which includes York) intend to charter their own aircraft to go to Cannes this year!

Sparks occupied Council Piccadilly site without permission

Containers being installed on 4th September

Tenancy agreement only signed on 9th November – 2 months after shipping containers arrived.

A response to a Freedom of Information request, recorded with the City of York Council on 15th November, has revealed irregularities with the lease for the site on which the containers were installed at the beginning of September.

It has emerged that the operator Sparks had, and still has, no lease for the site.

A “tenancy at will” was signed as recently as 9th November 2017.

In effect the company was able to park their assets on Council land for 2 months without permission or payment.

In November 2016 the Council’s Executive had agreed to lease 17/21 Piccadilly for the storage container village. The development was to start trading in May 2017 and the lease would expire in June 2020. The Council agreed to stump up £40,000 to cover the cost of providing water, electric and gas supply.

The Council was to have had a representative on the Sparks Board to look after its financial interests.

The Council expected to receive a basic rent plus a 30% share of “profits” (sic). The minutes of the meeting were clear that a lease (and hence rent payments) had to be in place to underwrite any Council investment.

A year later and the development has not been completed. No lease is in place. The Council has received no rent payments. No business rates have been paid on the site.

Risk warning Nov 2016

The containers have yet to be fitted out.

However, it has also emerged that the Council has already spent £31,500 (of the £40,000 budget) on facilitating the development.

Sparks has said that the earliest the container village could open is in March 2018. That would leave just 2 years for the Council to recover its investment.

The development has been described as an ugly eyesore made worse by its proximity to several sensitive historic buildings

Later this week a Councillor will be asked to extend the area to be covered by the lease to Sparks.  The area has most recently been used for car parking.

No additional payment is being sought from the developer for the extra land.

Castle/Piccadilly redevelopment – more meetings

New river walkways and public spaces, new uses for Castle car park, and alternative parking are among the exciting ideas to regenerate Castle Gateway being shared over the next month.

Guided walks across the weekend will introduce the range of ideas to regenerate the huge area of the city ― taking in Piccadilly, Fossgate, Castle, Eye of York and much more – at a special launch event taking place this weekend.

Planners have generated the ideas based on what people said during the first stage of My Castle Gateway, a unique and bold new consultation approach introduced earlier this year. You can also view and feed back all the ideas online at www.york.gov.uk/CastleGatewayIdeas .

City of York Council has joined forces with local engagement experts My Future York to run a series of guided walks, interactive events and online discussions to explore what people want to see and do in the area.

Instead of producing a single masterplan, the Castle Gateway team has created a series of options to allow York’s residents and businesses to keep shaping the future.

However, the consultation process has been criticised for being too ponderous and lacking any sense of urgency. Decisions on the sites are needed urgently to avoid piecemeal development and seize the opportunity to regenerate an area which has been run down for too long.
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