City of York Conservative councillors have called in a key raft of decisions taken by this month’s Labour Executive in respect of the Castle Gateway project. Castle Gateway is the term given to potential development around Clifford’s Tower and including the likes of St George’s Field Car Park and sites on Piccadilly.
Conservative Group Leader Chris Steward said
The Conservatives believe that poor project progress from Lib Dem and Labour politicians highlights the need for cross party working rather than swings dependent on who is in power. Labour has a mandate, but just a one seat majority and we do not believe this is enough to change the Castle Gateway Project as they are seeking to, including pulling plans for a multi storey car park at St George’s Field and in the process writing off over £1 million. Consensus, backed by tangible and sound financial business cases is needed, not hopes on what may happen transport wise. There are big lessons which look unlearnt from the likes of the Community Stadium and Guildhall, both of which cost far more than they should have done as Lib Dem and Labour vanity projects dwarfed real planning and financial prudence. We urge greater consideration of the way forward in areas of spend and the proposed reduction of city centre car parking which we have long urged against.
The Castle Gateway project will therefore now be looked at on Monday, 4th December by a council committee which will consider the following points:
1. Spark was only to be a short lease and if the extension goes through will have been for essentially a decade, paying well below market rent without sufficient positive overall good to justify this. Serious consideration should be given to other site uses, including a sale. The site is one location in the Piccadilly area, it is not pivotal. If the lease is extended there is no clear plan for after, it is simply a delay.
2. There is insufficient detail to show clear benefit on the return to the council from a generous lease extension to Mahavir Properties (Coppergate Centre).
3. The magnitude of the direction change on St George’s Field Multi Story Car Park has too little analysis given the associated write-offs and impact it would have.
4. The reduction in city centre car parking is unacceptable and will be a real issue for businesses, The reduced car usage hoped for in the Local Transport Plan remains a hope.
5. If city centre parking is cut as proposed there is inadequate planning for the resulting revenue drop.
6. Report, round estimate, figures (e.g. Castle and Eye of York c. £1 million, St George’s MSCP c. £2 million and Castle Mills c. £1 million) provide insufficient depth for members to analyse, nevermind time being money and officer time not being tangibly considered.
Cattle Gateway area needs development but the report shows little sign of historically poor progress changing, merely further cost. The following is needed:
1. A realistic assessment of what is key to the project, rather than various sites joined together, as well as consideration of the appropriate public/private sector division.
2. Cross party discussion and agreement on the future to truly achieve for York.
3. True, business quality, scrutiny of spend by councillors.