PLANS to turn land behind York Art Gallery into woodland and gardens have been unveiled.

York Museums Trust has submitted a planning application to City of York Council for the change of use of the site, where there used to be bowling greens and several old huts dating back to the Second World War.

The Trust originally wanted to locate a big observation wheel on the land but the proposals met with a storm of opposition from conservation groups and local residents and were eventually abandoned after it was discovered a bat survey had not been conducted.

A trust spokesman said yesterday that to coincide with the £8 million re-development of the gallery, the space behind it would be opened up to the public for the first time in hundreds of years.

"This two and a half acre space will be designed to complement and enhance the original gardens, making the most of the rich archaeology and natural history in the area," he said.

"It will be split into several areas: an 'edible wood', a garden of Yorkshire flowers, an artists' garden and interpretation of the Abbey precinct walls, including a section as a romantic ruin."

Tory councillor Ian Gillies said that whilst the proposals would be an improvement to the area, he was disappointed that an opportunity to create a high quality park for children had been lost.

He said he had suggested in conversations with Trust officials that it could at least investigate the possibility of creating such a play park, featuring swings, zip wires and climbing frames, but this appeared not to have happened.

"This could have helped to attract families in to the city centre in the late afternoon and early evening, particularly as there is a Park and Ride stop and car parking at either end of the gardens."

However, the Trust spokesman said the use of the gardens by young people and children had been integral to the Trust's planning but, rather than making a dedicated children's area, it hoped that all of the gardens would be used for play and learning in lots of different ways.

"New family friendly areas spaces have already been included in the original gardens, such as the Storytelling area and Medieval Twister," he added.