• Piecemeal development threatens hopes of bold master plan, warns council report
  • Ruling councillors urged to act
  • Council leaders have still to agree land sale at Clifford's Tower, giving potential new route for campaigners
  • More than 3,000 have signed petition opposing English Heritage's plan

PLANS for a huge overhaul of the southern part of York city centre are in danger of unravelling unless city leaders seize the initiative, officials have warned.

Senior bosses at City of York Council have long wanted to bring about the regeneration of the area around Piccadilly, Coppergate, the Eye of York and St George's Field, collectively dubbed the "southern gateway".

But the mixture of landowners and a series of ad-hoc developments means the hopes of an over-arching masterplan are seen as fragile.

Next week, a report by head of transport Tony Clarke and programme manager Dave Atkinson will be presented to the council's economic development and transport policy and scrutiny committee.

It says: "Many parts of the area are underused, semi derelict or of poor quality. Many of the properties are for sale or owned by investors and there is a risk that the area will continue to be blighted or that important sites will be developed in a piecemeal manner.

"The area is urgently in need of a fresh vision to improve the locality and create a socially and economically sustainable future. As the principal landowner, City of York Council will be instrumental in delivering a joined-up regeneration of the area which will maximise social and economic benefits for the city."

In recent years, several stand-alone projects have been completed in the area.

York Press:

The White Swan Hotel, derelict for 30 years, has been developed into a bar, shop and flats. The United House office block has been turned into flats, a similar project is planned at Ryedale House, on the other side of Piccadilly, and planning permission exists for the old Banana Warehouse building and two neighbouring shops to be turned into 37 apartments and two new stores.

Cllr Ian Gillies, the council's executive member for transport and planning, said about the regeneration: "It is long overdue, we need to get on with it. But we need to get it right.

"We need to work out what we want, then assess what we have and decide how we get there."

The report says: "Discussions are ongoing with adjoining property owners and developers to bring forward development of vacant sites.

"Delivery models are being explored to bring forward development proposals for the council's assets in the area."

It said the council was still exploring possible temporary uses for the site of the former Reynard's Garage (pictured below), which has now been cleared.

York Press:

The report also gave a potential fresh hope to campaigners who hope to block English Heritage's new visitor centre at the base of the Clifford's Tower steps.

Planning permission was granted last month, after only 13 people lodged objections, but more than 3,000 have signed a petition set up since the planning meeting, opposing the plans.

The report to the council committee reveals that the council executive will be asked later this month to approve of the sale of a small area of land to English Heritage, to allow the building to be constructed.

York councillor Johnny Hayes, who has been one of the leading supporters of the campaign to overturn or reverse the planning decision, said: "I think this is certainly something we need to look into and to find out details about. I will certainly be discussing it with the executive to find out the details and see what the situation is."

The executive meeting is scheduled for November 24. The agenda should be published early next week and, as is always the case, will include details of how members of the public can register to speak at the meting. 

Around 100 people gathered at the tower on Sunday to show their feelings on the issue.