Abandoned York Guildhall dirty and overrun with weeds.
The York Guildhall, a Listed building, is rapidly falling into disrepair. The Council – although still the owners of the building – quit the site in 2013, when they moved to new accommodation at West Offices.
Since then the Guildhall has mostly been unoccupied and was finally abandoned in 2017.
The Council had hoped to turn the building into a “business centre” but outside investment proved to be Impossible to attract. A prospective builder was dropped from the development amidst problems with escalating costs. The last estimates were that the project would cost around £15 – £17 million with all the risk falling on taxpayers.
Council leaders, when meeting in May, promised that a revised business case would be published. They confirmed that the Council would run any business centre complex themselves.
Whether there is a need for a business club is open to question. Traditionally traders in York have themselves formed organisations (guilds) to provide what today would be known as networking opportunities. Hence, we have privately funded meeting halls belonging to the Merchant Taylors and Merchant Adventures while Bedern provides a home for other guilds.
There are more obviously suitable properties available to satisfy business needs.
Stonebow House has announced a business hub while one of the augments put forward for the “Spark” development was that they would satisfy the needs of small businesses.
Even if there is still unmet demand, then there is more obviously flexible accommodation available on Coney Street.
Despite calls for the Council, to explore other less risky options, they said they would press ahead and try to find another builder. Many thought that the Council should have tested the market to see whether private investment could be attracted.
The Council is running out of time. A report in May said that essential repair works to the old building would cost at least £5 million.
With further deterioration now obvious from even a casual inspection, that figure will soon start to climb again.
There is no sign of a new business plan being produced before the end of February. There is no item covering the Guildhall in the Councils 4 month forward plan.
This reinforces views that the project will be “kicked into the long grass” until after the local elections which are scheduled for May.
The coalition Leaders must be beginning to worry that the Guildhall project will turn into their version of the Lendal Bridge folly.