TOURISM chiefs say they are disappointed after it was confirmed that one of York’s most iconic attractions is to close its doors to visitors on weekdays in winter.

English Heritage, which owns Clifford’s Tower, said the famous landmark will only open at weekends from November 1 through to February 12.

Visit York, the city’s official tourism body, described the news as disappointing while the national officer for CPS, the union representing English Heritage workers said the closure was a “huge risk”. Other major attractions in the region affected by same weekday closure include Whitby Abbey and Scarborough Castle.

Yesterday, an English Heritage spokesman said there been redundancies at all three of those properties but the vast majority had been voluntary redundancies.

“Wherever possible, we work with staff to offer them different working patterns to accommodate them,” he said.

He said the decision was made in light of “current visitor patterns”, along with a 32 per cent reduction in the money the organisation received from the Government.

He said: “We have been as flexible as possible with staff and where we can, we have offered extra working hours during the summer months and at other English Heritage sites or the alternative of remaining with us on a reduced hours basis. Some staff have decided not to take these options up and have chosen to take early retirement instead.”

The new opening hours mean Clifford’s Tower will be closed for two days during the St Nicholas Fayre in November. The event regularly attracts thousands of visitors to York with its Christmas market in the city centre.

The English Heritage spokesman said: “St Nicholas Fayre is a fantastic event for York which is why we are putting on a Christmas event especially for the Saturday and Sunday. Visitors will be able to enjoy the Fayre and then meet a Victorian Father Christmas at Clfford’s Tower.”

Gillian Cruddas, chief executive of Visit York, said: “We were disappointed by the decision to close Clifford’s Tower on weekdays, though at the same time we totally understand the funding challenges that organisations like English Heritage are currently facing.

“What’s important is that we continue to promote York as a year round destination and we are very fortunate in the city to have so many world-class visitor attractions for people to enjoy, whatever the time of year.”

Dave Rogers, national officer of the CPS union, also acknowledged that English Heritage had been “hammered by Government cuts”.

However, he said: “I think it’s plausible to say English Heritage will lose members because a lot of them access sites during the week.

“It will become harder for them to meet their targets; this is a huge risk they are taking.”

York Press: The Press - Comment


THE view across Fairfax House to the Minster is one of the best reasons to climb to the top of Clifford’s Tower. Whatever the time of year, it has to be one of the best views in York. Sadly, English Heritage says it has no option but to close the attraction on weekdays from November 1 to February 12.

The charity says Clifford’s Tower’s problems are twofold. Firstly, the decision reflects the reduction in visitor numbers, and secondly there has been a 32 per cent drop in its Government grant. There have also been staff redundancies, mostly voluntary, so that will almost certainly have been a factor.

This appears to be another sad sign of the times. No one is to blame, but it does seem a shame that tourists visiting York, who come to see our heritage, will be denied access to one of our finest historical sites during winter weekdays.

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