A TIMETABLE has been set out, highlighting key dates in the massive York Central redevelopment.

Officers from City of York Council have pencilled in "milestone" events as the programme for the ambitious "Teardrop" site project near York Railway Station is rolled out over the next 18 months.

Meetings in the pipeline from this summer until winter 2006 will discuss a strategic transport study and a bid for Whitehall cash to fund a mass transit/public transport scheme for the development.

A detailed site study and environmental assessment is also planned, alongside the identification of new rail requirements, to be carried out by Network Rail.

Council officers say the site study is due to start in the autumn and should be completed by the end of the year, while the environmental survey - including traffic, transport, contamination and archaeology - is due to be finished by summer 2005. The final planning stage of the 35-hectare project - which will involve officials from the city council and partners Network Rail, the National Museum of Science and Industry (the umbrella organisation for the National Railway Museum) and Yorkshire Forward - will see an outline "masterplan" go before council planners for consideration by early 2006. Public feedback will also be sought.

Council leader Steve Galloway said the size and location of the York Central development made it one of the most important in western Europe.

He said the timetable involving all the major players was an "important milestone" in the process of turning a "dream into reality".

There were still major infrastructure and transport hurdles to overcome. But if everything went to plan, he said, building work should start in 2008.

The latest revision to the York Local Plan includes the potential for 3,000 homes and 100,000 square metres of office space at the "brownfield" York Central project.

The council's ruling Liberal Democrat group hopes opening up a huge area of central land will help tackle York's affordable housing crisis, kick-start regeneration by transforming the area with quality architecture, and relieve pressure to build on green belt land.

But the Labour opposition group has raised concerns that York could be left short of homes if it relies too heavily on York Central.

Members argue the high costs of building access roads and other links, at a site surrounded by rail lines, could be prohibitive and have called for a "safety net" of housing options elsewhere.

Updated: 13:04 Tuesday, June 15, 2004