YORK'S leaders plan to spend £175,000 improving Hungate in the hope of luring more businesses to the area and cementing the city's international reputation.

City of York Council's cabinet will be asked on May 6 to approve the use of the money to improve the "public realm" in that part of the city-centre and make it more pedestrian friendly.

Katie Stewart, the council's head of economic development, and Ian Floyd, director of customer and business support services, say the move will create a "world-class district for commercial and resident development", but the council has been criticised for failing to provide detail of exactly how and where the money would be spent, with little detail in the report to cabinet.

The money will come from the council's £28.5 million Economic Infrastructure Fund, set up to fuel economic growth and will match money contributed by developers in the Hungate area through the planning application process.

The work should lead to increased investment and footfall in the area, and English Heritage research suggests similar work elsewhere has led to £1.60 return for every £1 spent, said the report by Ms Stewart and Mr Floyd.

They wrote: "The project will see the development of a more pedestrian-friendly and higher quality public realm in the Hungate area, creating a new pedestrian circuit in the city centre. It will link the new improved spaces and streets and also bring footfall to this currently under-utilised area of the centre."

They said York had to compete with other cities in England and overseas.

The report to cabinet does not detail the precise nature nor location of the work.

York Liberal Democrat leader Keith Aspden said: "Residents will be surprised that while basic services are being cut in their local community Labour has found £175,000 to splash on another city-centre project.

"The business case for this spending is short on detail or any measurable targets. It seems that Labour has failed to learn the lessons from either the King's Square revamp or the botched Lendal Bridge trial.”

Insurance giant Hiscox is in the process of moving on to Hungate, on a site behind the Black Swan pub, and Hungate York Regeneration Ltd recently received planning permission for the second phase of housing on its £130 million site, creating 195 flats near the footbridge leading to Navigation Wharf.

At the same meeting, the cabinet will be asked to approve the use of £75,000 from the EIF to help develop the ‘BioVale’ cluster, which seeks to drive Yorkshire as a international hub built on bio-fuels, bio-waste and chemical knowledge. The project is seen as having the potential to create 40,000 jobs regionally and contribute to a £12bn economic boost by 2025.

Council leader James Alexander said: “The Economic Infrastructure Fund was created to kick-start key projects for the city that otherwise would not be possible. These investments will boost the city’s offer and enable us to showcase its assets on a local, national and international stage as well as create jobs and further investment into the city.”


>> Read the council report here (item 12)