AMBITIOUS plans for one of York's most historic sites are likely to get the support of the city council next week.

English Heritage's plans for Clifford's Tower have divided experts and neighbours alike, but council papers published yesterday show a new visitor centre and an internal overhaul of the tower are likely to get planning approval.

The final plans were revealed in the summer, after English Heritage ran public consultations on its initial ideas, then altered their plans after they heard feedback from people in the city.

The scheme is now made up of a new visitor centre to be built into the base of the motte, facing the Eye of York and with a viewing platform on its roof, and new walkways and stairwells inside the tower working their way up to a bigger viewing platform looking over the city.

Experts behind the plans say the new building had to "tread a fine line" and be of high quality design, but not compete with the historic tower, museum or court buildings nearby.

York Press:

But they have faced heavy criticism from many including some conservation and heritage experts, who do not agree with their plans.

The city centre's Guildhall planning panel warning that the visitor centre "looks like a public toilet, and will be used as one". York Civic Trust have backed English Heritage's ambitious to improve the facilities at Clifford's Tower, but it is objecting to the visitor centre plan which it says will damage character of the important listed buildings nearby, and the wider conservation area in the city centre.

York Press:

But while the Civic Trust back the plans for stairs and roof decks inside the tower, both the York Georgian Society and the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings have asked the council to block all the plans - which they say will be intrusive, out of scale, and will ruin the character of both the castle ruin and the nearby Georgian court buildings.

But the plans have got the backing of Historic England, who say the internal plans are "imaginative and innovative", and admit that while excavating the motte to construct the new visitor centre will damage some archaeological deposits, that damage will be offset by the better access for everyone offered by the new facilities.

They have also got the approval of planning officers at the city council, and the formal report to the planning committee reveals that they view it as a significant government investment in York, and that other options like a shared facility with the York Museums Trust, who run the Castle Museum, or setting up a visitor centre in a shop on Tower Street, were explored but had to be abandoned.

They conclude by saying that the new plans "have the potential to greatly enhance the visitor experience to the Tower", and while the works will do some damage to the heritage site, the buildings have been carefully designed and the damage is minor and would be outweighed by the benefits the new facilities will bring.

The planning application will be decided formally by City of York Council's planning committee when it meets on Thursday, October 27, at West Offices on Station Rise.