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.

“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:

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.