York council halts progress on its own Castle Gateway regeneration plan

COUNCILLORS have delayed giving the go-ahead to one of the council’s own major regeneration schemes.

The massive Castle Gateway proposal for York city centre had been recommended for approval by officers – but councillors held off granting it planning permission, because they want a full review of city centre parking after the pandemic and because a conservation expert was not present to be quizzed.

The scheme – which has been developed through several years of consultation with residents – needs to have permission and be “shovel ready” in order to have a chance of getting extra Government funding, senior council officers told councillors in September.

It includes a new multi-storey car park at St George’s Field, 106 new apartments in Piccadilly and a new bridge across the River Foss – which were all due to be given planning permission on Thursday night.

But a decision on the new multi-storey car park was deferred so a full review of city centre parking can be carried out – with councillors questioning how much parking will be needed after the pandemic. They also raised fears about the impact for blue badge holders, pedestrians and cyclists.

And a decision on the new apartments in Piccadilly and the bridge over the Foss was delayed because councillors want to ask a conservation officer about the impact of the scheme on nearby landmarks – but no conservation expert was present at the virtual meeting.

Cllr Rosie Baker called for the multi storey car park plans to be deferred so a parking review could be carried out – which could see the whole scheme redesigned if it concludes that the city needs fewer spaces after the pandemic.

She said: “We have time over the next six months to do a full car parking review to take into account many of the changes post-Covid in people’s transport preferences.”

The conservation officer objected to solar panels being put on the roof of the car park – saying the light reflecting off the panels will seriously harm the views from nearby historic landmarks.

Cllr Tony Fisher said he supported plans for the new car park: “The city centre economy is under strain and we have an obligation to ensure that, whilst we respect the plans to reduce unnecessary journeys within the city centre, we don’t kill retail by completely eliminating car parking in the area outside the city centre.”

But the deferral was approved by a majority of just one vote – with Liberal Democrat and Conservative councillors voting against delaying the plans.

The planning application for apartments, a new bridge and park behind the Castle Museum were deferred quickly afterwards – as councillors complained that the council’s conservation architect was not present to answer questions despite strongly objecting to the plans.

The conservation expert had said the apartments would “loom” over landmarks – which include Clifford’s Tower and the Castle Museum.

They wrote: “The cumulative and negative impact of the development will cause irreversible harm. I, therefore, object to the application in the strongest terms.”

Cllr Pete Kilbane proposed deferring the decision until the conservation architect is available to answer questions about their concerns.

York Press | News