The council’s “continued role” in unlocking a new generation of jobs, homes and cultural facilities in the York Central site will be considered by the Executive next Thursday, 22 April.
Funding to complete infrastructure works at the York central site (located behind the railway station) is being made direct to the landowners – led by Homes England – by the government.
It means that the Council’s role will be peripheral despite many millions having already been invested in the project. That may be good news for taxpayers who have seen projects like the Community Stadium and Guildhall refurbishment delayed and go over budget in recent years.
Now contract supervision and liability will rest mainly with Homes England.
Transparency isn’t a strong point for any of the “partners” involved in the York Central project (or the current York Council for that matter). We doubt if engagement will improve under the new governance arrangements.
The Council does remain the planning authority although that role could be undermined as they pursue “Enterprise Zone” status for the project. Planning rules are lax in such areas.
The Council is still set to spend nearly £50 million on the project and is dependent on the additional business rate income from Enterprise Zone new businesses to repay its borrowing.
The report being considered next week skates over the risks of this approach,. Those risks appear to have increased since the pandemic with office based developments likely to be less attractive for a while at least.
There are a number of significant planning issues still to be resolved.
These include the (bizarre) suggestion for making the Leeman Road tunnel one way, the absence of an attractive pedestrian/cycle access from the Wilton Rise area and continuing doubts about severing the existing Leeman Road footpath link near the Railway Museum
Last summer Labour Councillors even tried to ditch the project.
The Council has issued the following statement,
“Despite the ongoing challenges of the pandemic, the council has worked with York Central partners Network Rail, Homes England and National Railway Museum to maintain momentum and progress on the 42 hectare York Central site.
After partners finalised the £155 million funding, secured planning permission and started work on the infrastructure to unlock the site, which will deliver up to 2,500 homes and space for up to 6,500 jobs.
Executive will be asked to approve changes to the way the project will be delivered and managed.
This includes the main grant holder, Homes England, taking on the delivery of the bridges, footways, cycleways, roads and other infrastructure to open up the site.
The council will also receive £3.86 million from the government grant to cover the costs incurred advancing the infrastructure project”.