York’s historic Guildhall is in a bad way – but there are plans to rejuvenate it at a cost of £16.5m.

If the City of York Council executive approve the ambitious proposals at a meeting next Thursday (14 February), a construction contractor would be appointed to start works in the spring or summer.

And they have quite a job to do.

New surveys have revealed significant structural problems with the tower on the north side of the site, which is currently subsiding and cracking.

The main roofs are also in need of replacement to prevent further water ingress.

Renovation and upgrading of the complex would require “an overall construction budget of £16.5m including contingency and a scheme budget of £20.2m,” the council report says.

The restoration would be completed by the autumn.

Riverside restaurant

An aerial view of the Guildhall complex. Photograph © Google Street View
The Guildhall is a collection of Grade I, II* and II listed buildings – built around the 15th century hall and riverside meeting room.

The Guildhall has only had reactive maintenance and repairs since extensive rebuilding works following the Baedeker bombing raids in 1942, which caused serious damage to the buildings.


Under the plans the building would “stabilised through major underpinning, protected from water damage and given a new lease of life,” says the council, adding:

  • With modern elements surrounding the historic core, the redevelopment would secure the long term future of the Guildhall site, offering high quality office space, community use, cafe, a new riverside restaurant and better access for local residents.

Significant investment

A damaged window in the medieval Guildhall
Planners say the scheme would generate about £848k of income a year, which can then be reinvested in the city. The scheme has grant funding of £2.3m from West Yorkshire Combined Authority.

The council would need to borrow close to £7.4m “funded from prudential borrowing identified in the 2019/20 capital budget report”.

These are the key benefits identified for the city of the first significant investment in the Guildhall for 60 years:

  • creating quality office spaces with the potential to create an estimated 250 jobs in high value sectors
  • improved access to the nationally significant heritage – through community use, events and civic meetings
  • maximising the Guildhall’s economic impact, creating an £117m boost to the city’s economy over the next five years
  • using 21st century green technology to heat the building.
Another picture from the report shows an office in disrepair

Council leader Ian Gillies said:

  • It isn’t enough to simply restore the building’s structure – respecting its heritage means restoring Guildhall’s central role in the civic, social and business life of York.

    This is a significant investment, but it is the right one; for this site of national importance, for York residents, and the city’s economy.

You can read the full report at here. The meeting takes place on Thursday 14 February from 5.30pm.