Deputy council leader Andy D'Agorne has called on developers to stop sitting on empty housing sites in York and start developing them.

Cllr D'Agorne spoke out after Persimmon Homes admitted recently that its 2.2 acre site next to the StayCity aparthotel and York Barbican had been taken off the market while 'various options and enquiries' were reviewed.

The land, just outside the bar walls, has been disused since the former Barbican pool and its car park closed in 2004.

A letter from Cllr D'Agorne published in The Press on May 3 said it would be 'a refreshing change after all this time if the owners would talk to local residents and their elected representatives before bringing forward urgent plans to see this prominent central site brought back into use, for the benefit of the city and those desperate for a home in York'.

The letter added: "If they still have no immediate plans, perhaps it could be handed back to City of York Council to build the affordable houses we need?"

Contacted by The Press, Cllr D'Agorne admitted that his suggestion Persimmon should just hand the site back to the council had been 'tongue in cheek'.

He said he had not spoken to Persimmon - and admitted that even if the developer were to agree in prionciple to return the site to the council, it would be a 'big question' whether the authority could afford it.

But he said there was an important principle at stake.

Too many developers - not just Persimmon - were sitting on empty parcels of land in and around York that were desperately needed for housing, he said - one such site is the former filling station on Fulford Road, near Alma Terrace.

Cllr D'Agorne said: "If developers have land that is suitable for housing, then we expect them to develop it. They should start using it."

Persimmon had originally intended to build 240 apartments on a former car park and nearby former bowling green next to what is now the StayCity aparthotel.

It abandoned the plans following the 2008 economic crisis - though the aparthotel got built on part of the site where the pool had been.

In 2013the housebuilder secured planning consent for 187 apartments on the land.

But work never started and the company - which is also behind the huge Germany Beck development - put the site up for sale last year.

Persimmon declined to comment on Cllr D'Agorne's remarks this week, merely repeating its earlier statement that 'our parcel of land off Barbican Road and Paragon Street has been removed from the open market as we review various options and enquiries'.

The land had been marketed by Savills, which said there was planning permission for 187 flats - or that, subject to consent, the site might also be suitable for other uses, including leisure or student accommodation.