Residents fear hen and stag parties could “party in the park after dark” if council plans for a luxury holiday flat in Rowntree Park Lodge go ahead.
And Cllr Johnny Hayes criticised the spiralling costs of the project – saying half a million pounds of taxpayers’ money will be spent on the scheme.
But council officers said the plans will bring in £380,000 for the park during the next 15 years.
Dr Cath Mortimer, speaking at a council meeting on Thursday, said many residents had been left in the dark over the authority’s plans for the flat. She said:
People felt that it was unclear how the flat would be managed. What about access? What about parking?
How will the gates be kept locked at night? What would stop the flat from being used for hen or stag parties? What would stop the users partying in the park after dark?
A lot of the fuss could have been avoided if the council made an effort to outline their plans in a public way.
Cllr Hayes said: “There are real concerns about people being in a space, with a lake, in complete darkness.
“The cost is now half a million pounds. That’s a very large amount of public money to invest in a luxury let, which only those who can afford £420 a night to actually stay there.”
He said the park was given to the city by the Rowntree family in honour of those who died in the First World War and there are “questions about the appropriateness” of creating a holiday flat on the land.
But council officers said gates will be installed to close the site off and the plans have been updated so the flat now has room for six people rather than four.
Nick Collins, head of commercial management at the council, said: “The capital has gone up but we’re more than offsetting that by providing extra revenue.”
“The net income will be ring-fenced for the benefit solely of Rowntree park that it’s expected to generate in the region of £380,000 over the next 15 years.”
He added that there have been extra costs including removing asbestos and fixing the roof, and that tourists would spend money in the park cafe and bring extra cash into the city’s economy.
Another £110K agreed
Senior councillors agreed to put an extra £110,000 towards the plans to convert the top two floors of Rowntree Park Lodge into a holiday flat.
Cllr Nigel Ayre said he had worries about the plans, saying: “What concerned me the most about the public speakers was the issue of a lack of transparency and a lack of trust and I’m very concerned that we don’t go forward on a basis like that.”
Council leader Ian Gillies added:
There’s a planning process to go through and nothing was going to be done until September or October.
I think during that time we have got time to talk to the relevant people. I do share your concerns. But how long has the lodge been empty – 18 months. So I don’t think anything is being rushed.
The works were due to take place in January, with the cafe set to shut until March as part of the refit, but the scheme has been delayed and the cafe remains open.
Under the plans, the work would take 12 weeks.