‘Terrifying for our future economy’ – Business leaders ‘staggered’ by plan to close key city car park

Castle car park. Photograph: YorkMix

Shop owners have hit out at council plans to close a city centre car park – without creating more parking spaces by building a new multi storey car park.

City of York Council is looking at whether to close Castle Car Park to turn it into a major event space by 2022.

Plans had already been made to shut the car park – but only once a new multi storey car park had been built at St George’s Field to replace the lost spaces.

Now the council is reviewing the Castle Gateway regeneration scheme – and one option favoured by councillors would see the multi storey car park plans scrapped or delayed.

Phil Pinder, chair of York Retail Forum, said Castle Car Park is one of the city’s busiest and is also popular with disabled drivers. He said the spaces need to be replaced.

He added that the plans were “worrying” for business owners: “We are absolutely staggered that this option has made it into a council document.

“We were told that closing Castle Car Park without a replacement would never be an option.

“To lose the parking is worrying and terrifying for the future of our economy.”

He said St George’s Field car park sometimes closes in winter due to flooding.

Six options

An artist’s impression of the St George’s Field multi-storey car park. Image: planning documents

Conservative group leader Cllr Paul Doughty added: “My view is that Castle Car Park can’t be closed or built on until there is a replacement in place.

“I appreciate there’s difficulties about progressing the Castle Gateway scheme and how that’s done. I would love to see Castle Car Park redeveloped, as long as there is another car park created nearby.”

Closing the car park without building the multi storey was one of six options presented to councillors looking at the future of the Castle Gateway scheme – and it was the option supported by councillors on the Customer and Corporate Services Scrutiny Management Committee.

Under the plans, work would start on plans to turn Castle Car Park into an event space – which council officers said could increase visitors numbers and the amount of money spent in the city – and it could be completed in 2022.

But Piccadilly Car Park is not usually full, they said, and it would be better promoted if Castle Car Park shuts.

The council would also lose cash generated by people paying to use Castle Car Park.

The car park has 349 spaces – 31 of which are dedicated blue badge bays – which would be lost if the site closes without a replacement being built.

The plans were backed by all members of the committee.

Committed to Gateway scheme

Piccadilly car park would be better promoted. Photograph: YorkMix

Cllr Nigel Ayre said it would be “irresponsible” for the council proceed with plans for Castle Gateway without reviewing them.

He said: “The Covid-19 pandemic has presented us with unique and far reaching challenges.

“In order to understand the wider implications of the public health crisis it has been imperative to review all major capital expenditure plans following the significant impact on the way people move around the city, the public health-centred approach to our economic recovery and the strain the coronavirus response and recovery has placed on our budgets.

“Castle Gateway is one of the largest capital schemes the council is involved with and to progress with the scheme with no review would be irresponsible.

“Pre-decision scrutiny gives us an opportunity to review the current situation and possible options with a cross-party group of councillors.

“In this case the committee has decided to recommend to the executive to continue with the scheme and review the replacement car park element of the project in light of potential change of usage patterns due to the ongoing impacts of the coronavirus pandemic.

“We remain fully committed to the Castle Gateway scheme, which will deliver new public spaces, new cycle and walkways, space for businesses to grow, more affordable homes and car parking facilities.

“As the project progresses replacement car parking facilities will be provided once these are needed.

“We have welcomed constructive engagement from businesses and residents throughout the Castle Gateway consultation and will continue to work with stakeholders and the community.”

A decision about the future of the car park and the entire Castle Gateway scheme following the pandemic will be made by senior councillors at an executive meeting on October 1 at 5.30pm.