Monks Cross chaotic

Anyone thinking of going shopping at Monks Cross should beware of the redevelopment work that is going on . The area around Boots is particularly chaotic this week with no accessible bicycle parking and facilities for pedestrians less than ideal.

Possibly a short term boost for City Centre and Front Street traders.

Hopefully the bosses at Monk Cross will get things sorted out before the IMAX cinema opens in December.

£20 million contract signed for the conversion of the Guildhall into a business club

Almost comatose leadership has allowed the York Council to slip into a £20.2 million project which will see the Guildhall and neighbouring development site converted into a business club and restaurant.

Weed infested, stonework stained, windows caked with dirt. The neglect of the Guildhall since 2012

Neglect of the Listed building since 2012 means that some of the money will be needed to underpin parts of the old building while an new roof will also be necessary.

On even the most optimistic of income estimates, York Council taxpayers will be left with an annual bill of £574,000. Most of this is interest charges on additional borrowings of £16 million.

The York Councils PR department has been busy working on a, very awkward looking, video seeking to justify the £20 million scheme. Their time might have been better spent updating residents on what is being done to address failings with the bin emptying service, overgrown paths etc.

There have been numerous occasions over the last 8 years where decisive leadership interventions could have reduced the risk to taxpayers. (click)

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So now we move on to managing the contract and subsequently letting the newly created space.

The Council has committed itself to a £20 million cost envelope and an opening date in “spring 2021”.

The Councils record on major capital projects has not been good in recent years. The £42 million Community Stadium costs escalated from an original plan to invest £16 million and, 3 years after its target completion date, it is still not open.

Taxpayers will be monitoring progress on the Guildhall project with anxiety. Even after completion the authority will be faced with the task of renting out the new office space for £595,000 per annum. Failure to do so would mean an increased subsidy from taxpayers.

 Ironically the Council may then find that it is in competition with itself as some of he office space being built at the Community Stadium site has still not found an occupier.

Guildhall project cost set to leap to £17 million

When you are in a hole stop digging  – or at least dig where the foundations need to be repaired

York Guildhall

It appears, from a report being considered by the Councils Executive on 8th May, that the cost overrun on the Guildhall development project could have been as much as £6 million. That was what caused officials to pull the plug on a contract with Interserve to redevelop the Guildhall complex.

Taxpayers had already been asked to underwrite an estimated cost of over £12 million for the Council’s plan to establish a “business centre” in the building.

There was no way even the most optimistic estimates of income would have covered the extra £300,000 pa interest costs on the borrowing.

Incredibly Councillors are now being asked to tender the work again with minor changes. Amongst these are a plan to move all building materials through St Helens Square during the 18 months construction period (rather than via the river frontage).

Roof terraces and extensions would be abandoned

Despite these changes, the estimated total cost of the project is now estimated to be an additional “£4-5 million”

“Business case” March 2017

That will be a direct charge on taxpayers as there is no scope for additional income from rents in what will be a smaller than originally planned building.

Significantly, officials provide no update on the business case for the “business centre” which is now clearly nonviable.

It was highly marginal under the old plans (see right) and was therefore labelled as “highly risky” with no private sector partner prepared to become involved

The Councillors are not even being offered the obvious option which would be to put the site on the open market and allow experienced entrepreneurs to suggest viable uses..

The Council has admitted that it has already spent £1.5 million on the project.

If the Council does seek new tenders for the business centre project, they face a major delay – probably until after the next local elections (due in May 2019).

If Labour were to be successful in that poll, they would be left picking up the pieces of a project which started to go wrong during their last tenure in office. They had from 2011 to decide what to do with the Guildhall complex but dithered for four years before passing the buck on to the incoming administration in 2015.

The listed buildings continue to deteriorate.The report say,s “work has identified additional repair and maintenance work particularly relating to the structural weaknesses in the tower and the estimates have risen from £2.5m in the 2017 report to between £3-5 million

With the annual maintenance bill continuing to grow, taxpayers will wonder just how they can now extract themselves from what has developed into a major financial black hole

If the market had been properly tested four years ago this crisis might have been averted.

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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