First stage of York Central gets the green light – but one councillor warns of ‘new Lendal Bridge-style fiasco’

Severus Bridge, part of the York Central infrastructure plans. Image: planning documents
13 Nov 2020 @ 7.32 am
| Changing city

Construction can begin on one of the biggest redevelopment schemes in Europe, after planners gave initial infrastructure work the go-ahead.

It has been hailed as the moment that kicks starts a regeneration vital for jobs and homes in the city.

But one councillor has warned that an aspect of the scheme could be the next ‘Lendal Bridge-style fiasco’.

After a five-hour meeting, the City of York Council planning committee last night (Thursday) approved a planning application that allows the infrastructure work to go ahead. Initial site clearance has started and a contractor is due to start on site early next year.

Council leader Keith Aspden said: “I’m glad to see the York Central project take another crucial step towards unlocking a £1.2bn boost to our economy, and delivering a new generation of jobs and hundreds of affordable homes when York needs it most. 

“York Central has been talked about for decades, but I am pleased that we are now taking major steps to move the project forward for the benefit of residents across the city.”

Tunnel vision

How the scheme would work

The plans include a controversial decision to only allow one-way traffic through Leeman Road tunnel.

While broadly welcoming the York Central plans, Conservative councillor Paul Doughty said this ‘foolhardy’ aspect of the scheme could damage the council’s reputation.

“The plan to make this one way to traffic at any one time with traffic light signalling is set to be the new ‘Lendal Bridge fiasco’. Except this time it will be worse as there will be no going back from such a huge multi-million pound scheme,” he said.

Leeman Road tunnel. Photograph © Google Street View

“The proposals will distort journeys by people being forced into taking needless lengthier diversions and leave citizens and visitors sat in congestion, with those going through the Leeman Road tunnel facing guaranteed slower journeys.

“It will also add congestion to Holgate and Bootham as acknowledged – and to the Station Rise / Lendal gyratory. All adding to pollution.

“It is bad for residents on Leeman Road, bad for people in Acomb and beyond in Poppleton, bad for people in Clifton, Rawcliffe and villagers including myself who live north of the A1237.

“It will discourage people from visiting the city centre when shoppers and visitors are now more vitally needed than ever.”

A vote to defer the scheme fell by nine votes to six. The plans were voted through 12 votes to three.

Ambitious development

City council leader Keith Aspden at the York Central site. Photograph: York Liberal Democrats

York Central plans include proposals to build up to 2,500 homes, including affordable homes, a commercial quarter creating circa 90,000m2 of office space.

Cllr Aspden said: “York Central has been recognised as one of the most important brownfield sites in the country.

“Starting work on the infrastructure brings this long-awaited development much closer to delivering the jobs, homes and infrastructure which will enable our city to thrive.

“As this ambitious development progresses, we remain committed to engaging with local communities to make sure York Central delivers on its goals of inclusive and sustainable growth, playing a key part in our city’s future.”