THE famous clock tower at York's old Terry's factory is to be turned into 22 flats, after plans to keep it in commercial use were ditched.

It had originally been intended that the tower, which sits among 173 luxury apartments at the former chocolate factory, would be used for commercial or community purposes, meaning the public could still access it.

Developers had described the tower as “a unique opportunity for retail, restaurant/cafe, bar, hotel, leisure and community uses”.

However they now say such hopes have proven unviable, and instead Henry Boot Developments Ltd and PJ Livesey Living Space have applied for permission to turn it into 22 apartments, of one, two or three bedrooms each.

The news has been met with disppointment.

The developers said a meeting of residents would be held soon, after the Chocolate Works Community Forum expressed concerns it had not been consulted.

Janet Hopton, chair of the Chocolate Works Community Forum, said: “I would think a lot of people will be extremely disappointed. It has been seen as an iconic landmark. There have been lots of expressions of interest in public access and the views from the top.”

There had been a feeling in the most recent meeting that the tower should not be made out of bounds to the public, she said.

It is not intended that any of the flats will be classed as affordable housing as this is not an obligation with existing buildings, plans state.

Initial suggestions for the clock tower were to use it as a visitor centre, retail unit, restaurant and education centre, next door to the old Liquor Store, in which York Cocoa House hopes to set up a chocolate processing facility to return chocolate making to the site.

There had also been talk of a gallery or museum.

Sophie Jewett, the owner of York Cocoa House, said there was some disappointment that “beautiful buildings in the heart of our city had struggled to find sufficiently viable uses other than residential.”

Ms Jewett said: “We are still investigating our plans to move forward and remain open minded about the future of the Chocolate Works project.”

The planning application states that despite a “significant number of accompanied viewings of the Clock Tower” and it being exposed to the market for a considerable time, a lack of parking spaces and the prohibitive costs of conversion have put interested parties off.

New plans are for six one bed flats, nine two bed flats and seven three bed flats alongside a previously approved scheme for the main factory building to provide a total of 29 residents spaces and seven visitor spaces. Dr David Fraser, of York Civic Trust, said: “We will be looking at the revised application very closely and our principle always is that historic buildings should be used for their original purpose or as close as possible.

“The kind of things we will be looking for will be, will the clock move and be operating and will the location overlooking the racecourse be available for as many people as possible?”

A spokesperson for Henry Boot said: “We take community engagement seriously and have met with local residents on a number of occasions regarding the Chocolate Works.

“It is our intention to hold a community forum to discuss these proposals in more detail. We have already made contact with the local authority, who administer the events, and expect to have a forum organised shortly.”

The 27 acre former Terry’s Chocolate Factory site was acquired by Henry Boot Developments in April 2013 in partnership with David Wilson Homes.

David Wilson Homes is responsible for the 270 unit residential area neighbouring the old factory buildings.