Piccadilly container village backed by some planning department officials

Sea containers to be parked on Piccadilly?

Council planning officers are recommending that the controversial plan to erect a boozy shipping container village on Piccadilly be approved.

The paper for the planning committee reveals that concerns about impact on the Conservation area and the proximity of the food and drink dominated plan to existing residential properties may be discounted.

The proposed approval of the scheme reflects badly on the competency of the planning system in the City. We already seen an ugly visitor centre approved for a site near Clifford’s Tower while Councillors earlier in the year gave the OK to siting an arts barge on the Ouse. The barge also will have alcohol at the heart of its customer offer.

If the shipping container plan is approved it is unlikely that we will see the permanent development of what is a key site in the City until late in 2020 at the earliest.  The Council – which owns the site – has never satisfactorily explained why – since the end of the recession – they have not been marketing the location for permanent development .

Ironically it seems that the Shambles market will be one of the main casualties if the project does get the go ahead.

We feel very sorry for those residents living in properties to the rear of the site.

One is located only 2 metres from a container.



Sparks flying as shipping container village plans amended

Major noise concerns registered by Public Protection department while Civic Trust and “Make it York” support wobbles.

Architects have submitted revised plans for the shipping container development scheduled to be constructed on the former Reynard’s garage site on Piccadilly.

There will now be no outdoor music played according to the developers.

The changes come at a time when several organisations – which originally supported the concept of a “start-up” orientated small business hub –  are changing their line.

The York Civic Trust in its latest representation questions how quickly a permanent use can be established for the Reynard’s site and expresses concerns about the bar/restaurant domination of the development.

Even “Make it York”  now question the number of food and drink venues that the site will accommodate.

They say, “as things have developed, the emphasis seems to be more and more on ‘street food’ and entertainment. Indeed, the York Press now refer to it as the “street food hub.”

This is concerning to us. Make It York has just invested a significant amount of money in the Shambles market area, creating a street food hub. This has been an important move as we seek to bring some life back to the Market area, a space that CYC have leased to us to develop.

Ground floor plan April 2017 click

I cannot believe that the Council wants to regenerate one area of the city only for it to have a detrimental effect on another. That wouldn’t feel very ‘joined up’.

Figures I have seen suggest that nearly 80% of the space is going to be for food and retail and this seems at odds with it being a space for ‘start up’ businesses”.

We already have evidence that some of the street food traders in our space have been approached to go on to the Reynard’s site”.

The Council’s own Public Protection Unit has also objected to the plan on noise grounds.

Referring to noise originated by people standing and sitting in the outdoor areas during the  evening, they say,

First floor plan April 2017 click

the changes in noise level are most likely to be noticeable, particularly as people noise is not constant in volume and will include regular peak events associated with shouting etc.

Because of this I do have significant concerns about the noise impact from people, particularly as there are not really any noise mitigation measures which could be used to reduce any impact and I would, therefore, have to recommend refusal due to the potential for adverse impact due to noise”.

The revisions to the plans mainly affect the east of the development but they are unlikely to address the concerns of residents living in that area.

The changes listed by the architects include:

  • The mix of uses on site has altered a little to rationalise the proposal and meet demand from local start-up businesses
  • An additional unit has been inserted onto the first floor (highlighted as unit 26) to provide an additional visual and sound buffer for residents to the east
  • Outdoor seating has been more evenly distributed throughout the site, with many seats removed from the eastern side of the site and replaced with planters
  • Roof layout April 2017 click

    A significant number of additional green roofs have been added to the site to enhance the site’s ecological value, to absorb rainfall and to soften the appearance of the development from neighbouring dwellings

Their full statement can be read by clicking here

So, there seems to be a belated realisation that the scheme is in the wrong place, would cause nuisance to neighbouring residents, is in breach of the Councils policy of controlling alcohol related activities in vulnerable streets and could damage existing street food businesses.

It is also still visually intrusive and could delay the permanent redevelopment of a key site in the City.

Residents have until 18th April to comment on the revised proposals.

Low marks for sparks

The proposal to site shipping containers on Piccadilly has now reached the planning stage. The plans can be viewed by clicking here. Residents can comment either in favour or in objection to the plans.

In some ways the proposals vary from the highly intrusive plans backed by the Council’s Executive last November

The plans show around 20 shipping containers, “re-purposed as a venue for retail, restaurant, office and performance space”.

The layout shows no fewer than 5 new bars.

There are also two restaurants with outdoor seating areas at first floor level. One area is only a few metres away from existing residential properties.

The proposal describes “beverage kiosks” serving alcohol and non-alcohol based drinks,” tapping into the early evening, European-style way of drinking and socialising”.

It is unclear from the plans where the promised outdoor entertainment will be located.

No noise impact statement is currently available

The listed activities would require licenses. The site is in the “cumulative impact zone” – and close to Walmgate which has had anti-social behaviour problems, connected with alcohol, in the past.

How many more bars can the City centre sustain?

One change from the November plans concerns the external appearance of the development. It will be circled by wooden hoardings which should go some way to softening the appearance of the containers. However, the submitted plans are confused about the external colours of the containers with some apparently retaining the strident primary colours that attracted adverse comment last year.

The proposals make no comment on the impact that the development might have on other low cost street level retail and food outlets in the City. The Shambles market is already struggling and any further dilution of users – and customers – could signal its end.

We have no doubt that the developers will lobby hard for their scheme. However, the planning committee will need to consider the quality of the arguments put forward.

Residents living immediately adjacent to the development should have real concerns about the impact that it would have on their lives.

The appearance of the development from the many high buildings nearby will still be a cause for concern even if muted colours are used.

But the main issues are likely to be whether the “temporary” use will in effect put the comprehensive redevelopment of the Piccadilly area back by another 3 years. In recent years, the Council has turned down several offers for the site which might have seen residential, hotel and/or exhibition space provided there.

Despite the recent publication of the umpteenth “southern gateway” masterplan, without a funding package and clear development milestones, this kind of make do project may be all that they are prepared to consider.

We should be more ambitious for the redevelopment of this part of the city

Walmgate residents were not consulted on shipping container project

Residents living in flats overlooking the proposed shipping container development on Piccadilly have not been consulted on the plans by either the Council or local Ward Councillors it has emerged this morning.

reynardsOver 200 people live near or adjacent to the Reynard’s garage site and one occupier has told us that the first they knew of the proposals was an article in the local newspaper.

At yesterdays meeting the three Councillors, who are supposed to represent the interests of the Guildhall community, all spoke in favour of the container village.

It appears though that they failed to consult local taxpayers before making up their minds.

Part of the scheme involves the provision of “ a large event space and seating area on most of the site + a decking stage performance area“. This has prompted fears about noise in an area which has had its fair share of afternoon and night time disturbance over recent years.

Quite how the developers will square their ambitions with licensing and planning restrictions remains to be seen.

The Council was also criticised for not publicly inviting other organisations and businesses to pitch for use of the site.

One resident has said that they would have been happy to lease a car parking space at the location – suggesting that the Council have missed at least one revenue raising option (Connecting mains services to the container village will cost taxpayers £40,000).

Councillors have been challenged to justify their claims that “there is a lack of space for street food vendors and meeting space in the City“. It has been pointed out that many guildhalls are underused, several retail units are unoccupied and the recently established Shambles cafe area is lightly used. Several office and commercial blocks in the Piccadilly area are empty and have the benefit of existing mains services.

A relatively new small business start up centre in Clifton is rarely fully occupied.

Meanwhile more information has emerged about the project in Brixton (London) which has apparently inspired the York 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.


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


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.

Just occasionally a Council goes completely mad

If anyone had suggested over a pint in a public bar that a dozen used sea containers should be allowed to park on a sensitive City centre site in York, for three years, they would have been laughed at.

But in essence the Council’s Executive committee will consider doing just that on the vacant Reynard’s garage site when they meet next week.

Reynards Garage site

Reynards Garage site

A proposal from a group called “Spark” would see affordable space created for “local start-up businesses, social enterprises, community groups and charities for over 20 businesses in 14 fully fitted out shipping containers. The completed scheme would offer street food kiosks, retail, shared workspaces, meeting room, a performance area and public workspace. Although constructed from shipping containers they can be clad and finished in a variety of finishes to fit the locality and create a high quality aesthetic finish”.

A Council official writes that the plan would  ” improve the quality of the area and by driving footfall, contribute to uplift in land values”

Sea containers to be parked on Piccadilly?

Sea containers to be parked on Piccadilly?

The use of low quality temporary buildings with transient users has, of course, had just the reverse effect on land values elsewhere.

It is an extension of the post war bomb site “used car dealer” syndrome.

The containers are expected to be available to rent for £300 a week. Many are expected to be street food outlets and will compete with the mobile vans and stalls which already existed in the Shambles market area.

The Council is expected to spend £40,000 connecting utility services to the site. It says it expects to recover this from rent income although how much “Sparks” would actually pay is unclear.

And critically the location is within sight of some of the most important historical buildings in the City. These include the Merchant Adventurers Hall and the Castle complex.

The Council has had plenty of time to come up with with a constructive, low risk, option for the use of this site.

In the run  up to Christmas it should be used to supplement the overcrowded Castle car park.

After that there are many unobtrusive  leisure and commercial uses that could be considered if the Council really can’t get its “Southern Gateway” major redevelopment project into gear.jumbo-big-square-hay-bale-foreground-dimensions

We have said for some time that the Council has over-extended itself. It has too many major projects on the go at the same time.

Quality is suffering and short term expedients become straws to be grabbed at.

In this case a whole bale of hay is about to fall on the Council leaderships head.

York Council to ramp up buying and selling plans



It looks like the Council will be selling its premises at 29 Castlegate later in the year. The building has been in use as a youth drop in centre for several years and before that housed a photographic gallery.

Closure of the youth centre provoked a strong reaction and the Council abandoned its plans to sell the building in 2015. However, a new home for youth activities has now been found at Sycamore House and it seems that the Council will resurrect is plan to sell the building to the York Civic Trust (who run the adjacent Fairfax House and which needs the space to expand).

A meeting on 24th November will discuss how to ensure that taxpayers get the best possible deal out of the change.

Leeman Road

Elsewhere the Council is expected to discuss in October whether it can buy the Unipart Rail site on Leeman Road. The site is one that will eventually be redeveloped as part of the York Central project.

The Council has so far failed to identify an investment model to drive forward land acquisition in the area. It has allocated £10 million in its capital programme to fund an access route into the site but many taxpayers are unhappy that this risk is not being born by commercial partners – or government agencies – who stand to profit from the development.

Castle Mills car park

Castle Mills car park

It seems likely that the Council will fund the demolition of its Castle Mills car park on Piccadilly which is described as being in “poor condition”. It is likely to be replaced by a surface level car park until such time as the regeneration of the area actually moves forward.

Regeneration of the Coppergate/Piccadilly area has been stalled for over 15 years.

Future of Piccadilly to be decided today

York Council to slow pace of redevelopment

Piccadilly Oct 2015

The pace at which  the regeneration of the Piccadilly area of York – now dubbed the “Southern Gateway” – will take place will be decided by the Council’s Executive today. A report from Council officials talks of establishing a blueprint for the general development of the area.

As we said three months ago, the brownfield site offers a major opportunity to provide additional housing in what has become a very popular destination for new home owners.  Even high value properties in Hungate and St Leonards Place are selling like hot cakes.

It is estimated that at least 450 new homes could be provided on the Piccadilly site.

Today’s report offers little that is new.  “Partners” will be sought to redevelop the old airspeed factory, a project manager will be appointed and taxpayers will be asked to spend £185,000 on further developing the plans.

Potholes on Castle car park

Potholes on Castle car park

Officials are recommending that the Council work closely with developers who have already worked up plans for some of the individual sites in the area.

The Council itself owns the busiest car park (Castle). The car park generates over £2 million a year in revenue – although it currently is in very poor condition.  The Council also runs Castle Mills and the St Georges Field car parks.

One option to be considered is an underground replacement.

It is also known that there is a strong preference to make major changes to Ryedale House which could become a major residential development.

The Council seems set on slowing down (again) the pace of redevelopment.

Three months ago they had reached the stage where possible land uses had been identified.

These clearly did not fit in with the ambitions of the private landowners. Hence the decision to pull back..

At this rate we doubt whether there will be any major development in the area much before the end of the decade.

Council officials recommend demolition of Reynard’s garage

Reynard’s Garage, 17-21 Piccadilly comprises a substantial early 20th Century masonry and steel portal framed structure lying within the Historic Core Conservation Area to the south west of the River Foss and the City Centre.

17/21 Piccadilly

17/21 Piccadilly

In a report to a planning committee next week, Council officials say, It is of some townscape importance as part of a group of early 20th Century industrial buildings and of some historical importance through its association with early aircraft manufacture by Airspeed Ltd and the author Neville Shute. It was initially constructed as a Trolley Bus Depot but following on from the withdrawal of the network in the early 1930s was converted to industrial use. The building is referred to in the Central Historic Core Conservation Area Appraisal although an attempt to have it Listed as being of Historic or Architectural Interest through Historic England has previously proved unsuccessful due to the lack of survival of its historic detailing and its very poor structural condition. It is in very poor structural repair and has been vacant for approximately 20 years”.

The report also says,

“it is clear that the fabric of the building is beyond repair for reuse, and the building is in the short term highly likely to collapse without major intrusive supporting works”

Officials recommend “any permission be conditioned to require short term development comprising the landscaping of the site including an element of interpretation of its role in the development of the modern City”.

They go on to recommend the demolition of the building.

Any short term use is likely to be restricted to either car parking of use as a coach drop off point. Council officials seem to think it will become a “landscaped area” although the costs and source of funding for such a temporary use are unclear.

The Council recently withdrew from its forward decision programme proposals to create a “Masterplan” covering the whole of the Piccadilly area.

While developers are known to have tabled comprehensive  proposals for the area – including the conversion of Ryedale House into residential accommodation – it seems unlikely that the proposals will be considered in the near future.

In the meantime the derelict site should be made safe and put to a positive use which is neither an eyesore nor a burden on taxpayers..

York Council shelves Castle/Piccadilly report

The York Council has withdrawn from its meeting schedules a report on the future of the Castle/Piccadilly area.

Castle short stay car park

Castle short stay car park with Piccadilly beyond

Now dubbed as the “Southern Gateway“, the report had been scheduled for consideration in September.

The delay is the latest in a series of setbacks for the 15 year old redevelopment scheme.