‘It could be the biggest attraction since Jorvik’ – city urged to save historic building

The biggest attraction since the Jorvik Centre opened 31 years ago – that’s the vision for a York building which is recommended for demolition.

As YorkMix reported last week, council officers say the former Reynards Garage on Piccadilly should be pulled down.

Members of the York council executive will discuss the report at a meeting on Thursday evening (June 25).

And they should think again, says Ian Reed, director of the Yorkshire Air Museum.

Built as a bus garage in 1921, the building was leased ten years later to Airspeed Ltd, when it became York’s first aircraft factory.

Family visitors

Back in 2013, the Yorkshire Air Museum went public with its proposal to turn the former factory into a “1930s experience attraction”.

This would relate the story of Airspeed and its director, the future novelist Nevil Shute Norway, as well as the wider excitement of a decade filled with new ideas, inventions, fashion and designs.

Ian said:

We can develop the site with our partners to provide an essential and historically accurate attraction, the size of which, York has not seen since the opening of Jorvik 32 years ago.

The numbers of visitors since that time has increased enormously but good quality attractions in York haven’t – just pubs and fast food chains!

We need to get York back onto the family visitor market now and this well thought out project is ready.

Save demolition fee

Historic: the former Reynard's Garage building in Piccadilly, York. Photograph: Richard McDougall
Historic: the former Reynard’s Garage building in Piccadilly, York. Photograph: Richard McDougall

The council report says demolishing the garage could cost up to £150,000.

“If it is going to cost York tax-payers £135,000 to demolish the site, then they should gift it to the Yorkshire Air Museum – a registered charity – under the terms of the Community Right to Buy Scheme, brought in by the last government for exactly this kind of thing,” Ian said.

He said that, because of its unique history, the building is an Asset of Community Value. Any redevelopment would be at “no cost to the taxpayer”.

Unique piece of history

Ian is supported in his plan by York historian and conservationist Alison Sinclair.

She was active in creating the York Local List, a register of buildings in York important to the local community. Reynards Garage is on the list.

Alison said she hoped the council executive would not vote to demolish the building.

If they do we will lose a unique piece of York’s history.

Who would have thought that aeroplanes were designed and built in that undistinguished shed in Piccadilly by a firm, Airspeed Ltd, founded by a famous author, which went on to manufacture planes which played an essential part in the Second World War?

I would like to think instead of destroying the only evidence we have left in the City for this extraordinary and unexpected industrial activity, executive members could find it in their hearts to re-start discussions held between their Officers and the Yorkshire Air Museum a little more than a year ago.

An Airspeed exhibition in the original Airspeed factory would be a completely appropriate and satisfactory solution for the future of Reynards.