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.

“Southern Gateway” rebranding for Castle/Piccadilly development

It looks like the York Council may be about to try to revive the Castle/Piccadilly development project.

An item on their forward programme suggests that a rebranded “Southern Gateway” scheme will be considered at a meeting taking place on 24th September

Cliffords Tower

Cliffords Tower

The project has historically involved an area of land bordered by Piccadilly, Coppergate, Clifford Street and the inner ring road. It includes the former tram depot/airspeed factory, the Castle car park and Piccadilly House.  There is some speculation that the area under consideration may be extended further long the banks of the Foss to tap the burgeoning growth now taking place in the Hungate area.

The Council – which owns car parking land in the potential development area – has attempted on two previous occasions to bring forward comprehensive redevelopment proposals for the land. The last failed following a Public Inquiry some 12 years ago. In the main, criticisms reflected the impact that the development might have on Clifford’s Tower.

In the interim much of the property on Piccadilly – and particularly the area facing the Foss – have remained semi derelict. Periodically land owners have tried to get planning permission to develop the area in a piecemeal fashion but this has been resisted. One developer (LaSalle) went bust and any redevelopment stalled when the recession hit in 2008. The absence of an agreed Local Plan has not helped.

With residential property prices in the City Centre now soaring, this may now be a good time to revive the process needed to agree a new comprehensive development plan.

Former airspeed factory (also used as a tram depot and garage)

Former airspeed factory (also used as a tram depot and garage)

A mixture of ground floor retail with apartments above may just prove to be attractive to developers. There is likely to be pressure to include a new heritage attraction possibly making use of the historic links to the old airspeed factory (currently being demolished). The retention of adequate car parking will be seen as  essential by many retailers and the idea of putting some of it underground may be worth further consideration.  A pedestrian bridge over the Foss has been a recurring theme of previous proposals and would help internal circulation around the site.

Whether the York Council now has the capacity to provide a credible lead on such a major project remains to be seen. It is already deeply in debt and the new Executive’s revised budget continues to reflect the increased borrowing assumptions of their predecessors.

There also remains a question about the skills mix and experience of a workforce that has been scaled down over recent years and which is already struggling to deliver major projects like the Community Stadium, Guildhall and York Central.

Still a Masterplan for the future of this very significant site is needed, so we look forward to the publication of the latest set of ideas.

Council building on Piccadilly “could collapse”

Residents should read the Council report on the condition of the old tram depot (and aircraft works) on Piccadilly.

17/21 Piccadilly

17/21 Piccadilly

Officials say that it might collapse any day and barriers are being erected to protect passers-by.

Buildings don’t become dangerous overnight and the state of the building is just another testament to the neglect that the Labour Council showed for any project that didn’t offer them a quick buck.

Five years ago the building was scheduled for demolition with suggested interim uses being either as a coach drop off point or car parking. The latter at least could be enacted quickly providing some revenue for the Council.

However a planning application could take 12 weeks to determine.

In the meantime it seems the building will continue to represent a risk.

In the longer term, one option for the site is high quality apartments with developers challenged to reflect the sites varied history in any design proposals.

The whole of the Coppergate area has been blighted for two decades by indecision, failed planning applications, competing sectional interests and bankrupt ownership.

Hopefully we will see signs of renewed leadership on the future of the area when the Council’s new executive meets for the first time on Thursday,

NB The Executive will take place on Thursday 25 June at West Offices from 5.30pm and is open to members of the public or is available to watch live online from: www.york.gov.uk/webcasts

York Council asset sale

The York Council is planning to sell off property and land that it owns at Lower Darnborough Street, 17/21Piccadilly, the former Manor School and adjacent to the A59 roundabout.

It also intends to purchase the remaining freehold part of Stonebow House.

The scheme on Darnborough Street, would see a vacant former malting converted into 6 town houses, the existing machinery and fittings remaining in situ in the communal area and the creation of a “renewable energy heating centre” using the existing kiln and flue to heat the townhouses which will be let on long leases. The Council have not published details of the successful bid nor have they indicated if it was the highest bid received.

17/21 Piccadilly

17/21 Piccadilly

The Council have negotiated with the owners of the major development site next to Manor school (ABF who own the former British Sugar assets) to sell it. It will form part of the major access to the new housing development. Again the Council have not revealed details of the negotiated price. The site was not put on the open market.

The former aircraft works and (later) tram depot on Piccadilly is – as has been widely reported – set to become a hotel. Offers, which have not been revealed, are subject to the granting of planning permission.

An area of land next to the A59/A1237 roundabout is to be sold to the adjacent garage. The Council understands that a major redevelopment will then take place.

Finally the Council intend to buy out the North Yorkshire County Council, from its 50% ownership of the Stonebow site, for £62,250.

Generally the City has always benefited in the long term from land and property acquisitions so this move may be a good one. However the controversial building is let to property holding company which is currently in receivership, so rapid progress is unlikely.

NB. The York Council has been criticised in the past for selling off assets at the wrong time and in the wrong way. The Haymarket/Hungate car park – which generates over £100,000 a year in income – was sold to an insurance company at the low point in the recession, potentially losing taxpayers over £2 million.