MAJOR developers have defended York after it was labelled 'the NIMBY city - a place that does not want to grow'.

However, leading figures in the city acknowledge that York has untapped potential, needs to be 'more aspirational and not only look to the past', and needs leadership and a clear vision.

The comments come in the wake of a report in the Economist, prompted by the debate over whether Fishergate's old Mecca bingo hall should be replaced with student housing, in which one councillor claimed it was 'clearly a cultural facility, if not institution' and called on the chairman to resign.

"The eruption of controversy over the redevelopment of an ugly, defunct building is pure York," said the article, claiming that places in the north were as NIMBY - an acronym for 'not in my back yard' - as elsewhere, despite the levelling up suggestion that northern England was hungry for growth.

With York's last local plan done in 1956, a huge green belt to prevent suburban sprawl, and the lack of wasteland to help expand the city centre, except for the York Central site, the report noted that the city was also 'hardly better at creating commercial buildings'.

The new Hudson Quarter, completed last year, claimed to be the first of its kind in York for at least ten years.

York Press:

York simply did not want to fulfil its potential of being 'a powerful engine of the northern English economy', stated the report.

Laurence Beardmore, president of the York and North Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce, told The Press: “York is a great place but as a city we have not been good at delivering new developments and high-quality office and commercial developments.

York Press:

"As a result, we know a lot of companies look at coming to York but then go elsewhere.

"New developments do not need to be at the detriment of beautiful city centres. There are many examples across the world where fantastic cities can deliver the growth and economic development needed to thrive while protecting their heritage.

"We should be more aspirational in our outlook and not only look to the past.”

Richard France is managing director of Oakgate Group which has been involved in major developments in York over many years, most notably the Vangarde Shopping Park, and the transformation of Stonebow House in the city centre.

York Press:

“York is a tremendously vibrant city and we have, over the years, been able to deliver some great developments through working constructively with the council and a wide range of bodies," he said.

"But the planning process is becoming progressively slower for a number of reasons. This obviously has an impact on the rate new homes of all types, sizes and tenure being delivered as well as commercial space.

"What we seem to have lost is leadership with an overall clear vision for the city which would promote investment, jobs and new homes."

He added: "In my opinion York needs above all, a chief executive to take control of this great city’s destiny and this should be done sooner rather than later.”

York council has had three restructures in three years. Earlier this year, chief operating officer Ian Floyd promised to bring stability to the senior leadership team after the upheavals amid accusations from Labour that the reshuffles were to offset the costs involved in the early retirement of the former chief executive, Mary Weastell.

Max Reeves, development director at Helmsley Group, said that while York, and other UK cities, had challenges with how it approached development, it was 'disingenuous' to claim York lacked ambition or did not want to be a ‘powerful engine' of the economy.

York Press:

“In many ways York already is. It has a thriving visitor economy, is globally recognised and is home to many hundreds of private and public sector organisations.

“It is also important to recognise that York, because of its treasured history and heritage, is in many ways unique. This means that City of York Council leaders and planners cannot take a ‘one size fits all’ approach to development.

"Crucially, there is also a responsibility from those wishing to create new buildings or transform what is already there to strike a balance between looking forward and respecting the past.

“As a business that has operated in York for more than 40 years, we understand this balance and the need to collaboratively engage with the council, the public, and key stakeholders for the benefit of the wider city and its people.

"This is an approach we are taking with our ambitions to bring a new lease of life to York’s riverfront and to redevelop Coney Street as a high-quality commercial destination.

“Visions such as ours, allied with the forward-looking approach to redevelopment at York Minster Precinct and progress at nationally-important schemes such as York Central, show that there is plenty of ambition, rather than a lack of it.”

York developer, North Star, is involved in major development projects across York including revised plans for The Roman Quarter, the redevelopment of the former Heworth gasworks site and a new music venue and offices on Toft Green.

A spokesman said: “York is definitely an amazing city and we are proud of the developments that we are delivering. With all these exciting projects, we try and work with as many stakeholders as possible to ensure we can offer maximum benefits to York.

“There is also massive untapped potential, and we see our new plans for The Roman Quarter on Rougier Street as being a bold statement for the city that it wants to look forwards and positively develop, as well as celebrating the rich heritage of the past.

"This major new development and investment will act as a modern gateway into the centre from the railway station and a fantastic first impression to visitors and residents.

“The positive reaction we have had to the new plans shows the enthusiasm from residents and businesses that they will embrace exciting projects and show this ambition to thrive.”

Neil Sinclair, CEO of Palace Capital plc, the developer behind the Hudson Quarter, said: “We found the council particularly pragmatic and York in general, embraced our vision for Hudson Quarter and supported the plans."

York Press:

The planning process was 'thorough but fair', with the team's architects and planning consultants enjoying a constructive relationship with the council’s officers, he said.

"This allowed us to deliver an award-winning mixed-use development in a stunning location replacing an eyesore 1960’s brutalist building no longer fit for purpose and largely vacant.

“The council understood the complexity and history of the site which resulted in the first significant speculative offices of this size to be built for many years, as well as the stunning new apartments 90 of which are sold or under offer.”

The Press approached York council for comment.