YORK’S former heritage champion has accused city leaders of planning to sell a city-centre building which was once an aircraft factory to hotel developers in “clandestine” fashion.
The sale of Reynard’s garage in Piccadilly, the 1930s home of aircraft manufacturer Airspeed Ltd which the Yorkshire Air Museum hoped to turn into a visitor attraction, is to be agreed by a senior City of York Council official and one of its cabinet members. They will select a preferred bidder from a shortlist of four.
All bids include a hotel, with the council – whose cabinet approved delegating a decision on the sale last night – saying the chosen scheme will help regenerate Piccadilly.
But Green councillor Dave Taylor, who held the heritage champion role before it was scrapped, said the “mysterious” process and criteria for selling the council-owned site should be opened to public scrutiny and the air museum’s plans should come back into consideration.
He said: “What is at stake is a building and site of some historical interest, not just an asset to be disposed of without reference to its heritage. This is not a decision which should be taken behind closed doors by some clandestine cabal. The council is tarnished by doing business in this way.”
Coun Taylor said that, without the criteria being published, residents would “think the worst as another piece of York’s heritage is bulldozed”.
He said demolishing Reynard’s would remove the most tangible evidence of the role in York of aviation pioneers Nevil Shute Norway and Amy Johnson, who were both involved in Airspeed.
York Green Party chair Denise Craghill told the cabinet the Airspeed attraction proposals had local support and would be “a more interesting draw than yet another soulless hotel”.
Coun Dafydd Williams, cabinet member for finance and performance, said: “I will reflect on comments made, but I am not going to make any promises and I am not going to apologise for the fact we are looking to maximise our financial interest in this site.”
Council leader James Alexander said he respected the site’s heritage, But he said: “I’m sure these pioneers would not have wanted it to languish for so long – I don’t think it’s right to restart the process, and we need to get on with this.”