City centre car park to stay open – and plans to develop the Spark:York site put on hold

Clifford's Tower and the Castlle Car Park. Photograph © Google Street View
25 Sep 2020 @ 7.55 am
| Changing city

Thrown into flux by the Covid crisis, York’s multi-million masterplan for the area around Clifford’s Tower is undergoing a review.

The Castle Gateway project aimed to

  • replace Castle Car Park with public space
  • build a new multi-storey car park at St George’s Field
  • create a new bridge for cyclists and pedestrians across the River Foss and
  • build two blocks of 106 apartments in Piccadilly.

However, the council’s latest thinking is keep Castle Car Park open for now, as they can’t yet afford to build the St George’s Field replacement.

A meeting of the executive will be asked to press ahead with agreeing a design for the public space around Clifford’s Tower, then secure planning permission for the project.

That would put the authority “in the best position to secure any external funding that may become available through the government response to Covid-19” to help pay for its implementation.

The council would also look to find a construction partner to deliver the apartments at Castle Mills. That development will help to pay for the regeneration, including

  • a new pedestrian/cycle bridge over the Foss
  • the riverside park at the rear of the Castle Museum
  • and the pedestrian/cycle crossing over the inner-ring road.

However the Executive is being asked to delay procuring a construction partner for the St George’s Field multi-storey until more is understood about the impact of Covid-19 on the city, particularly on long-term parking trends. 

But the report says Castle Car Park must stay open until replacement parking is found.

Piccadilly delays

Spark:York. Photograph: YorkMix

Meanwhile councillors are recommended to delay any plans for 17-21 Piccadilly – the site now occupied by Spark:York.

The masterplan proposals for the site would see up to 25 apartments built over ground floor commercial spaces for small independent businesses.

“If the site was sold with an unrestricted use the anticipated land value would be in the region of £1m,” the report says.

“If the council were to develop the site it would control delivery, quality and land use and would realise an anticipated return of £2m.”

However the second option would require the council to borrow another £6 million and take the developer risk.

Given the new circumstances, it “may be a better option to sell the land”, the report says.

But the property market is now uncertain so the report suggests any decision on whether the council should develop or dispose of 17-21 Piccadilly should be delayed until next summer when market conditions will have become clearer.

‘Fully committed to scheme’

Cllr Nigel Ayre

Cllr Nigel Ayre, executive member for finance and performance, said: “We remain fully committed to the Castle Gateway scheme, which will deliver new public spaces, new cycle and walkways, space for businesses to grow, more affordable homes and car parking facilities.  

“Given the challenges presented by the pandemic, it is important that we continue to review all our major projects.

“The Castle Gateway masterplan was built on extensive engagement with residents and businesses, and its key features remain more relevant today than ever.

“We are looking to put York in a position where we can secure as much investment in the city as possible, while also gaining a financial return form the Castle Mills development to reinvest in the public spaces. 

“This means approaching the project differently, although we are committed to not closing Castle car park until replacement parking is available.”