Councillors urged to block the surrender of an historic piece of York land

An extract from the Draft Local Plan map for York city centre, showing the chunk missing from the motte around Clifford's Tower
3 Apr 2018 @ 7.25 pm
| Environment, History, News, Politics

A York councillor has written to all his counterparts to urge them to block the loss of a key piece of land.

Johnny Hayes has contacted every other City of York councillor to ask them to help reverse the change outlined in the Draft Local Plan.

This shows that a piece of the motte under Clifford’s Tower has been removed from ‘open space’ designation.

The rectangular-shaped gap corresponds to the plot where Clifford’s Tower owners English Heritage want to build a controversial new visitor centre.

Cllr Hayes, the independent member for Micklegate, says this change “cannot be allowed to go ahead as it stands”.

Circumvent the laws

Historic monument: Clifford’s Tower. Photograph: YorkMix

Cllr Hayes has been battling the council’s decision to grant English Heritage permission to build the modern visitor centre.

He took it to a Judicial Review, which backed the council. But an appeal againt that ruling is due to be heard in the High Court in May.

Open space is marked in green on the Local Plan maps.

While the rest of the Clifford’s Tower motte remains green, there is a space where the new visitor centre would go.

Cllr Hayes believes this is an attempt to circumvent the laws on the disposal of open space land. These state that a council must advertise their plan to dispose of the land for at least two weeks, and consider any objections.

Precious spaces need protection

The visitor centre would be this side of Clifford’s Tower. Photograph © Google Street View

In his letter to fellow councillors, he writes: “The City of York Council Executive have agreed to sell and give away that parcel of land at the base of the tower to allow the English Heritage Visitor Centre to be built. However the terms of the [Local Government] Act still have to be observed and they have not been.”

He says the parcel of land qualifies as open space on three grounds:

  1. it is a public garden
  2. used for public recreation
  3. and the site of an ancient burial ground.

Cllr Hayes says allowing the council to remove this plot of land from open space designation could set a risky precedent – writing:

The Clifford’s Tower motte is designated in the Local Plan as open space along with the city ramparts, parks and other important city centre green spaces.

This is an important issue for our city. We have green spaces within the city that are clearly Open Space land being considered for development.

These spaces are precious and need protection.

The opportunity to obect to the Draft Local Plan comes to an end at midnight on Wednesday (April 4).