How we got to the multi-storey car park in St George’s Field?

The plan of the multistorey car park on St George’s Field as shared for public discussion in March 2019. New final plans will be shared in the events in June.

In the first week in June My Castle Gateway are running two events to look at the final designs of the new multi-storey car park on St. George’s Field and the new apartments on Castle Mills before they get submitted to planning.

It’s always good to look back as we look forward so here is a potted history of how we came to the decision to build a multi-storey car park in St George’s Field.

The initial Council Executive brief

The Council’s brief for the Castle Gateway project was passed by the Executive on 26th January 2017.

It made a few specific comments and instructions about car parking:

Sitting in the shadow of Clifford’s Tower, the Castle Car Park provides an inappropriate setting for such a significant historic monument. However, it is one of the busiest car parks in the city and creates an essential income stream for the council. (p. 6)

One of the key constraints on redeveloping all the council’s assets is that all but one are functioning car parks. Although they often experience low levels of occupancy they collectively generate £1.9m per annum in net revenue which is vital in funding and delivering wider council services. Easily the most used of these, and indeed all council car parks, is Castle Car Park which generates £1.2m per annum. The council cannot afford to lose this revenue which as a minimum must be replaced, and a key aim of the project is to actually increase council revenue from its commercial assets in the area. Consequently, the closure of any car park will need to be allied to a reprovision of the resulting loss of income. (p.10)

My Castle Gateway process and open brief

During the My Castle Gateway Phase 1 while many wanted to ‘get rid of Castle Car Park’, replacement parking was also supported by many post it notes. The My Castle Gateway open brief summarized it as:

See car traffic and parking dealt with in ways which do not conflict with these other uses

Later in 2017 when options were shared for where the replacement car parking should go (St Georges Field or Castle Mills) the outcome was:

of the responses addressing the two suggested alternative locations, St.George’s Field (Site SGF1) was greatly preferred over Castle Mills (Site P3). Reasons varied, from feelings that St.George’s Field was further out from sensitive historic sites and hence had less impact, to the fact that traffic access to Piccadilly was seen as more problematic (as Castle Mills is inside the inner ring road, whereas St. George’s Field is outside it).

The summary report also notes:

However there were various additional points made in respect of broader thinking – a number of responses pointed to the use of shuttle vehicles to “shorten” the distance from the relocated car park to the city centre, and some voiced ambivalence over the need for the substantial investment in city centre parking when the council was encouraging the use of Park & Ride.

Castle Gateway masterplan – passed by Executive

The Castle Gateway Masterplan was passed by the Executive on 26th April 2018. The following was noted in the minutes:

(iii)     That approval be given to prepare the detail design of the St George’s Field multi-storey car park alongside the planning application process.

Reason: To allow construction of the car park to commence as soon as planning permission is achieved, in order to enable the delivery of future phases.

(iv)    That approval be given to procure a construction contractor for the St George’s Field multi-storey car park alongside the planning application process.

Reason: To have a contractor in place to commence construction of the car park as soon a planning permission and a detailed design are in place.

Implementing the decision

Since then Andy Kerr and the Castle Gateway team have been implementing the Car Park decision and the My Castle Gateway project has held various events and meetings to explore the issues and inform detailed design.

Andy Kerr summarizes the rationale behind the new multi-storey car park as follows:

  • We are closing Castle Car Park, a poor quality surface car park which surrounds and has a damaging impact on the setting of Clifford’s Tower and the Eye of York.
  • Castle Car Park currently generates the council a revenue of £1.2m which funds public services. To put this in to context to replace that lost revenue would require a 1% increase in council tax or equivalent savings to be found it the council’s budget.
  • Consequently we are seeking to replace some of the lost car parking by building a new 360 space multi-storey car park (MSCP) at St George’s Field.
  • However this will still allow us to reduce the overall number of car parking in the area by 100 spaces and remove car parking and associated traffic to outside of the inner ring road.
  • We need to replace some of the car parking to protect the revenue to the council and to ensure support for the masterplan from key city centre stakeholders, particularly retailers, who are experiencing unprecedented high street challenges and whose support is conditional on lost car parking being replaced.

  • There were a large number of the public who responded to the My Castle Gateway project to say they wish to see city centre parking retained.
  • A 360 space MSCP will actually generate relatively few car journeys or trips, and as above will result in a reduction of city centre car parking and journeys within the ring road.
  • St George’s Field is currently a large surface level car park and has no alternative development use as it is functioning flood plain.
  • The access to the MSCP will be at first floor level allowing all except the ground floor of the MSCP to be used in times of flood, unlike the existing surface level car park.
  • The new junction to allow access to the car park helps to create the new pedestrian/cycle super-crossing over the inner ring road.
  • The MSCP will have a much smaller footprint than the existing surface level car park allowing a large section of the area to be converted to public space and landscaping.
  • 16% of the MSCP will be for electrical vehicle charging (significantly higher than the 2% required) promoting low emission vehicles that reduce the environmental impact.
  • The MSCP is crucial to unlocking the Castle and Eye of York as a vehicle free area to provide a new city centre public space befitting the historical importance and setting of its heritage assets.

Recent reactions

During the March 2019 events we shared the emerging designs for the new car park and this has prompted a renewed debate about whether building a new car park still the right thing to do, especially as on 21st March 2019 the council declared Climate Emergency and committed to York being carbon neutral by 2030. As this history of the multi-storey car park shows, the decision has been made for a wide variety of reasons with political direction directly from elected councillors and lots of public input. Any change to this would need to come directly from the council’s political leadership and have taken into account all the reasons the initial decision was made.

Shifting scales and modes of public engagement

As My Future York we are now effectively running a two-track process. Via My Castle Gateway we are focused on public involvement in the implementation of the decision made by the council Executive in 2018. And completely independently – via My Future York – we are also opening up longer term and wider debates prompted by the council declaring Climate Emergency and seeking to make York Zero Carbon by 2030 (e.g. through the Collaborative Hustings and as we will do through our involvement with Extinction Rebellion’s people’s assemblies at the Demand the Future event on 21st June. Details of both below).

How to get involved?

Events in early June will be about detailed design of the car park to inform the submission of plans to the Planning Committee. There will be a statutory consultation process as part of the planning process. You will – once submitted – be able to follow progress and participate in the statutory consultation process via the Planning website.

And/or get stuck into wider questions of climate emergency by coming to Extinction Rebellion’s Demand a Future event on 21st June and keep your eye out for a Citizens Assembly on Transport (an outcome of the My Future York Collaborative Hustings).

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