Updated: Future of the York Central and Castle Gateway schemes thrown into doubt by pandemic

A till from a video about York Central

Major schemes including York Central and the Castle Gateway redevelopment may be stalled owing to the financial turmoil wrought by the coronavirus pandemic.

City of York Council is losing nearly £1m a month while the lockdown restrictions are in place – as it loses income from car parks, rents, council tax and fees.

The council was due to spend about £560 million during the next five years on schemes including York Central, the Castle Gateway and the area at the front of York Station.

Most of the money comes from government grants and other public bodies, as well as loans.

A report written for senior councillors says: “Whilst the programme is fully funded through a combination of government grants, borrowing and other funding it is clear that a fundamental review of all schemes will be needed to assess any new risks as a result of the pandemic.

“This will include considering the overall purpose of the scheme and whether they are still financially viable given the risk to the overall economy.”

Unprecedented times

A view of the Castle Gateway development from Castle Mills Bridge

The financial challenges will be discussed at the council’s first online video executive meeting on May 7 at 5.30pm.

Long-awaited government funding for the York Central scheme was only just approved on March 11 – with the latest planning application submitted ten days ago.

It is set to create up to 2,500 new homes for residents as well as office and retail space to boost the city’s economy.

While welcoming the extra government money, leader of City of York Council Keith Aspden said: “It is important that we know the additional costs of our response will not affect the council’s longer-term finances, particularly in providing services to children and in adult social care.

“The Covid-19 crisis poses unprecedented challenges to all local authorities and we will continue to work together to deliver essential services and key projects like York Central.”

Cllr Nigel Ayre, executive member for finance, said major projects will be key to helping York recover from the crisis.

He said: “Major Regeneration schemes such as York Central, the Guildhall restoration and Castle Gateway will be form an important part in the regeneration and recovery of the city and our economy following this pandemic.

“Along with partners we will be focused on ensuring there continues to be skilled jobs, new homes and improved public spaces for everyone to use.

“York Central is particularly important for the long term future of the city and whilst the programme is already funded through a combination of government and local enterprise partnership grants and enterprise zone-backed borrowing, we will of course be aware of any risks that arise due to Covid as with all major capital schemes.”