TWO developers claim City of York Council's plans for the York Central site risk financial disaster for the city.

John Reeves and Michael Hammill are warning that the proposals for speculative office developments could effectively lead to York being bankrupted, and have offered their services free to help save the city.

Mr Reeves, chairman of the Helmsley Group, said he thought the idea of developing the teardrop site behind York railway station was great in principle, and could bring life back to a part of the city that had been derelict and ignored for decades.

However, he felt such a complicated site needed to be dealt with by people who really understood the risks and rewards, and the council was 'gambling' on paying for its loans and grants by the retention of business rates, which he assumed was why the plans provided for so many offices.

He estimated the net developable area to be less than 30 hectares, amid a changing office market, with shorter leases, hot desking and home working. "Anyone who built speculatively will be committing financial suicide,” he claimed.

“What happens to CYC finances if these numbers of offices are not deliverable? Who carries the can for the resultant bill? I assume York residents.

“I am seriously concerned about the fact CYC could effectively bankrupt the city with a well-intentioned but seriously flawed business proposition and once again offer to provide mine and others services for free to try to help get this right.”

Mr Hammill said it was vital a viability appraisal was released as soon as possible, so proper scrutiny could be applied, and he had grave concerns about the speculative construction of offices without tenants signed up. “As a part owner / developer of the last grade A offices ever to have been speculatively built in York -Apollo and Artemis Houses on Eboracum Way - and having had empty floor space since the building was completed nine years ago, I can tell you that this is utter madness.

“No one in their right mind would ever propose the building of empty offices in the hope this would attract tenants. Buildings follow demand not the other way round.

“I and other experienced property developers who have actually funded and built offices in York and created jobs are available to advise, free of charge, if only we were asked.”

Council leader Chris Steward said he welcomed their thoughts and undoubted expertise, and was already making plans to meet with them to discuss their thoughts.

Neil Ferris, acting director of city and environmental services, said officers would respond to individual concerns and were contacting Mr Reeves and Mr Hammill personally. “However, we must point out that their claims are unsubstantiated,” he said.

“The York Central consultation is all about giving residents and businesses an opportunity to feedback their thoughts on the proposals, so we very much welcome debate on this.

“Before making any final decisions, the council is seeking to better understand residents and businesses’ views. We are holding a number of drop-in events and public exhibitions, whilst paper/online surveys can still be completed before February 15. All comments will be considered and reflected in the final report, which will be taken to the Executive for final approval later this year.”