‘Not in the motte!’ Minister backs campaigners fighting Clifford’s Tower visitor centre

Clifford's Tower looking resplendent in the autumn sunshine. Photographs: Richard McDougall

The controversial Clifford’s Tower visitor centre should not go ahead as planned, a minister has said.

Culture minister John Glen has agreed with campaigners fighting the proposal, whose slogan is ‘Not in the Motte’.

During a meeting with York Central MP Rachael Maskell Mr Glen expressed concerns about the English Heritage plan to build a visitor centre into the motte – the mound on which the ancient castle sits.

He agreed with Ms Maskell that a permanent site for the visitor’s centre could be incorporated into the wider development of the Castle Gateway project and the proposed development of the York Castle Museum.

The Minister said he would be writing to English Heritage to support an alternative location for the visitors centre apart from the current proposal into the motte.

Time to look again

An artist’s impression of the visitor centre

Mr Glen recognised the opportunity that the progress of the Castle Gateway project presents in offering an alternative location for the visitor centre, Ms Maskell said

“It is important to secure a new visitors centre to attract more visitors to Clifford’s Tower and tell the story of York and our nations history,” the she said.

“However he also recognised the strong opposition to building the visitor centre into the motte and the lasting effect this will have on the landscape and is writing to English Heritage to ask them to look again and try and find a solution.”

She said the minister was also concerned about the wider issues surrounding access to heritage sites that affected many disabled people.

This followed Ms Maskell’s question in Parliament about access that the Clifford’s Tower controversy had highlighted.

Court battle

York Central MP Rachael Maskell adressing campaigners

Campaigners fighting the plan are delighted by the minister’s intervention. They have been led by independent councillor Johnny Hayes, who told YorkMix:

This is the best news that I have heard in one year and 5 days since the planning permission was given.

I am delighted but only time will tell if the minister can persuade English Heritage to reconsider their plans.

This was always the wrong building in the wrong place. Let us hope that we might get the right building in the right place.

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The development comes three weeks after a High Court judge granted campaigners fresh hope.

Led by Cllr Hayes, they had taken City of York Council’s decision to grant English Heritage planning permission for the visitor centre to judicial review.

That ruled in favour of the original decision. But in October a High Court judge granted campaigners the right to appeal.