Plans for a ‘community space’ above the existing café at Rowntree Park Lodge have been submitted to City of York Council.

The Friends of Rowntree Park seek to transform the former park keepers lodge, the upper floors of which have been empty since 2017.

Rowntree Park opened in 1921 and until 2017 had a park keeper, whose role was made redundant by the city council and the friends took over such maintenance.

Last autumn, the charity staged a public consultation about their ambitions for the council-owned site.


The application to the city council says the friends are negotiating a long-term lease with the council to create a permanent administrative base for their operation.

They also want to create “a variety of spaces within the building that will offer a range of activities to the local community.”

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Renovating the former park keeper’s lodge with lift access would create a fully-accessible community venue on the upper floors, planning documents said.

Interventions would be ‘minimal’ to maintain the character of the building.

‘Best-practice’ retro-fitting of the existing historic fabric is also promised.

The application continued: “The proposals will create a welcome new hub for local activities and provide purpose again for this much-admired building.”

By providing a home for the friends, the group would be able to further expand and improve its role at Rowntree Park, it said.

The application also warned: “The fact that this building has stood empty for over 6 years is a key aspect to the need for this development to go ahead. There are no current alternatives and leaving the building empty will clearly be a risk to both its condition and concerns about its future with the risk of potential break in and vandalism as sadly occurred with the West Bank Park Lodge in 2016.”

It continued: “The Friends of Rowntree Park believe that the transformation of this presently unused space will be  very beneficial both to the local community but also to the wider community from York and beyond who use the park. The public benefits that this development provides we feel should provide the local planning authority with a very sound basis to grant planning permission for the application.”

The application concluded that the ‘discrete interventions’ to the historic, but not-listed, building would cause least harm to its heritage significance.

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Recommending approval, as the benefits would be greater than any harm, the scheme met a range of local and national planning policies.

“Internally, there will be minor, isolated changes to the historic plan form, but this will have a negligible impact on appreciation of the structure or its original use. 

“Overall, the level of harm to the non-designated heritage asset is minor and justifiable in view of the overall need to put the building to good use for the benefit of the community and prevent its decline,” the application also concluded.