A PLANNING group has renewed its opposition to the prospect of an empty office block in the centre of York being made taller after detailed plans for a penthouse to be added were unveiled.

Developers want to turn the upper floors of Hilary House, in St Saviour’s Place, into 13 apartments and have secured permission to change the use of the existing 1960s building so it can become homes.

Plans to create a medical centre on its ground floor have also been given the go-ahead by City of York Council.

Two more applications for the site – which has been empty since it was vacated by HM Revenue and Customs two years ago – have now been submitted to City of York Council by St Catherine’s Development Ltd.

They cover the addition of a sixth storey to accommodate a penthouse apartment and “sensitive” changes to the building’s appearance, including new windows on all floors.

The Guildhall planning panel has lodged a formal objection against the proposals, having described the building – designed by architect John Poulson and opened in 1964 – as “a carbuncle” and “a monstrosity” and saying the best thing to do with it would be to “raze it to the ground”.

The panel’s clerk, Chris Edghill, said the building was already out of scale with the rest of the area and making it bigger would “cause further damage to the environment”, against planning policy.

“The proposed development will harm the residential nature of the area, with considerable extra traffic from both the medical practice and the residences,” he said.

He said the council would not be showing consistency if it approved the loss of city-centre office space, after its economic development unit recently opposed plans for a hotel on George Hudson Street for the same reason.

PDP, the developers’ agents said the penthouse would have “very little impact when viewed locally or city-wide” and the building’s revamp would soften its appearance.

The firm said: “The aim is to produce a building which is more contemporary and can stand exposure by virtue of its quality, and is less obviously an outdated office block of the 1960s.”