£25m York development might be put on ice

£25m York development might be put on ice
George Burgess, Northminster Managing Director

Plans for a new £25 million hotel in Piccadilly, York, could be put on hold until there is clarification about the Spark:York leisure scheme, the developer has confirmed.

Northminster, which submitted plans for a 146-bed hotel and eight apartments last month, after more than two years’ detailed discussions with City of York planners and English Heritage, said that it may put its plans on ice over doubts that the Spark:York scheme meets national planning policy guidelines for conservation areas.

George Burgess, Northminster Managing Director, said: “The concept of creating a Spark:York scheme to support business start-ups is laudable but wholly inappropriate in a conservation area and at odds with the local authority’s wider aspirations for the regeneration of the ‘Castle Gateway’ to the city centre.

“The Spark:York plan proposed for 17-21 Piccadilly is on land owned by City of York Council and must be subjected to the same rigorous scrutiny under local and national planning policy as any development submitted for this historic part of the city.

“There are far better uses for this site in terms of architecture, job creation and income generation for the local authority and, in spite of the considerable investment we have made so far, we may place our hotel scheme on hold until the threat to this part of the city is removed with the rejection or relocation of the Spark:York scheme.”

National UK planning policy for conservation areas stipulates that “long-term viable uses” should be found “to protect and enhance heritage assets” and Northminster says that the Spark:York scheme does not meet either criteria.

Mr Burgess added: “The Spark:York scheme would be only temporary with the proposed granting of a three-year lease. Old shipping containers are not ‘permanent structures’ with any reasonable life expectancy so they hardly ‘protect and enhance heritage assets’.

“We support helping start-up businesses but cafes and licensed premises are well catered for in this part of the city. There appears to be no firm plans to relocate the businesses which will have been established in the Spark:York development after three years.

“Without a replacement location, York will be under pressure to extend the temporary use of the Piccadilly site that could become permanent by default in spite of its unsuitability. There are more suitable sites within the City that could accommodate Spark:York, in a less sensitive location.”

He said that, if City of York Council wanted temporary revenue from the Piccadilly site, a car park would provide a higher and more secure income with far less conflict with existing residents and businesses.

He added: “Spark:York is not the only option for this site. There is strong commercial interest for uses far better suited to national planning policy for conservation areas.

“York has lost more than 400,000 sq ft of office space during the last five years as a result of planning legislation changes to permitted development of offices to residential use.

“A permanent development, including high-quality Grade A offices, where York now faces a severe shortage, could create more than 300 permanent jobs, generate business rates for the city along with in excess of £1m cash or a substantial annual income of more than £100,000 for the local authority, all of which would offer better value for the city.”