Clifford’s Tower backlash: 1,000 people sign petition against revamp as mass protest planned

A view of Clifford's Tower which will change forever under the approved plans. Photograph © Tim Green on Flickr
30 Oct 2016 @ 4.04 pm
| Environment, News

Hundreds of people have signed a petition condemning radical changes to Clifford’s Tower, as plans for a mass protest take shape.

The backlash is building against the decision to build a visitor’s centre and add a timber decking roof to the ancient landmark.

Last week York councillors voted by 11 to three in favour of the plans, drawn up by the castle’s owners English Heritage. You can see the debate of the City of York Council planning committee in the video below (it will start from the Clifford’s Tower debate).

‘An ugly inappropriate design’

An artist's impression of the visitor centre planned at Clifford's Tower
An artist’s impression of the visitor centre planned at Clifford’s Tower

But many residents are infuriated by the proposals. A petition to Stop English Heritage Making Clifford’s Tower Look Like Disneyland! collected 1,000 signatures in a day.

Among the comments left on the site were these:

English Heritage are supposed to enhance our appreciation of this special site, not completely ruin it.
An ugly inappropriate design. This is typical of the vandalism inflicted on English cities by so many pig-headed and plebeian councillors who neglect the vital importance of aesthetic considerations, especially in historic places.
What the ancient ruin of a castle tower does not need is a cafe, shop and fence, destroying this historic monument for local residents for the sake of a few pennies from tourists.
The mound of Clifford’s Tower is a key part of the site itself and to build into it would prevent full appreciation of both motte and bailey. I cannot imagine a visitor centre being built in middle of Stonehenge ring of stones just because it is empty space.

And a protest is planned against the changes on Sunday, November 6 at 11am. Details are on the Facebook page Stop York City Council & English Heritage vandalising Clifford’s Tower

Site it elsewhere

Cllr Hayes addressing the planning committee next to a model of the planned changes. Photograph: YouTube
Cllr Hayes addressing the planning committee next to a model of the planned changes. Photograph: YouTube

One of those leading the fight against the plan is independent councillor Johnny Hayes. He said: “The building itself reminds me of a toilet block. But it is not the building that is at issue; it is the position against the base of the mound that people are objecting to.

“If a visitor centre is needed, why can this not be sited elsewhere?”

He added: “Clifford’s Tower and the mound are truly iconic and should not be treated in the manner that is being suggested by this model and these plans.

“I’m truly horrified, I really object.”

Former city councillor Brian Watson said: “Under the new proposal it will look similar to a child’s Meccano set, with so much structure that the impact will all but disappear.”

Another artist's impression of the visitor centre
Another artist’s impression of the visitor centre

He also described the visitor centre as “a building of not much merit whatsoever”. He also blasted plans for a cafe there, saying “to turn this iconic feature into a cafe is a complete sin and a total disregard to York’s history”.

What English Heritage say

English Heritage is investing in this iconic landmark to tell the fascinating history of Clifford’s Tower for generations to come, in a way that’s never been told before.

english-heritage-logoThe new facilities will provide a warm welcome for the thousands of visitors visiting Clifford’s Tower each year; as well as a safe and comfortable working environment for our staff.

The new deck and walkways inside the tower will allow visitors to enjoy the spectacular views of York and previously inaccessible features at roof level.

The new visitor centre will be built into the base of the mound and will reveal the tower’s 19th-century wall, buried since 1935.

Source: Clifford’s Tower website

At the planning meeting Jeremy Ashbee, head properties curator at English Heritage, said: “The proposal for Clifford’s Tower that has been developed over the last three years has one overriding objective: to do justice to the national and international significance of the tower and York castle.”