On 1st and 5th June My Castle Gateway ran two events focused specifically on the applications for St George’s Field Multi-storey car park, Castle Mills Apartments and the new bridge over the Foss.
Below is a report which links together specific feedback from these June events and the earlier events exploring the applications in March. There were strong continuities in terms of the feedback.
St George’s Fields Multi-storey car park
The decision to develop a planning proposal for the multi-storey car park was taken by the council executive last year and while this is not something that can be undone through the My Castle Gateway process, the new round of public engagement has prompted ongoing consideration of matters of principle. There were comments both in support of the multi-storey car park both remarking on how St George’s Field doesn’t look good now and the new car park could be considered to be an aesthetic improvement as well as arguments accepting and reinforcing the arguments made by the council executive (replacement car parking and replacement of revenue) and those questioning the need for it (see also Fishergate Ward Committee, 6th March notes). The discussions exploring the need for the multi-storey car park referenced the new Climate Emergency called by the council and the target to be Carbon Neutral by 2030 as a new context as well as to the general need to reduce cars in central York and to use Park and Ride better.
In terms of functionality, electric charging points were seen as important. It was suggested that electric charging points should work for all models and should work with apps designed to find electric charging places. There were questions over opening times and, if 24 hours a day, how to make it safe. Questions were raised about flooding in terms of clean up costs afterwards.
In terms of design, the height remains an area where concerns were expressed. A few questions over the extent to which the design is ‘in character’ were raised. However, there was widespread support for the green walls, including calls for them to be extended. Solar panels were generally approved of but questions about whether the panels could be in a less obtrusive place (due to height and visibility).
There was a call for greater clarity over how blue badge parking will be dealt with the closure of Castle Car park.
A number of points were made about how St George’s Field would coordinate with other more sustainable forms of transport, whether public transport (buses and shuttle buses) or cycling, in terms of cycling parking.
The new green space made possible by the reduced footprint of the car park was welcomed, with calls to ‘make the most’ of it.
A number of local residents asked about the future of the fair on St George’s Field, with concerns over noise and disruption meaning these enquiries were not always these enquiries were not always supporting its continued presence in the area.
Junction and supercrossing
Generally there was a strong preference for a 4 lane super-crossing, with cycling groups arguing it would be essential for it to be part of a fully successful cycle route. There were questions raised over the impact of the supercrossing in terms of stopping the traffic.
The shared area between the supercrossing and the St George’s Field cycle path remains not yet fully resolved with the Castle Gateway team talking with City Cruises about their use of the brick building on the corner of the St George’s Field access road. Additional space here would reduce the possibility of conflict between cyclists and pedestrians.
Castle Mills Apartments
In general the proposals for Castle Mills apartment were looked at positively. There were some comments questioning whether the design is in keeping with surroundings and the overall height of the buildings. There are Piccadilly residents who will be affected by loss of sunlight, though the fact there will be a view and access through to the river is still seen as offering benefit. The new plans for commercial or cultural use facing the river was especially welcomed as was support for local and independent businesses.
The revision of the proposals to omit car parking was generally seen as a positive thing given the location of the apartments in the city centre, though whether this would make it inaccessible for disabled residents was questioned. A number of comments raised the need to ensure cycle parking and recycling is well provided for. It was asked if there could be solar panels or heat pumps?
Principal concerns were raised over the danger of too many expensive apartments. The message about 20% potentially being council housing had not entirely got across, especially in the online and press discussions.
Castle Mills Bridge
The Castle Mills bridge proposals were very warmly received. There were a few exceptions to this. In the masterplan the new bridge as a kissing bridge located at the boundary between Ryedale House and the Castle Mills site. Since then the access route over the bridge and through to Piccadilly has had to be move further south due to the position of a sewer. This new position promoted a few people to ask if it is now a ‘bridge to nowhere’ and whether it fails to facilitate the overall aim of the Castle Gateway project to increase access to and through the Castle and Eye of York area.
The need to be able to stop and look was noted and there was a slight preference for Option 2 with a curved edge. The width was seen as significant, with it needing to be wide enough to avoid the need to have designated segregated paths for cyclists and pedestrians. It also needs to be open and safe 24 hours a day. The lights for the bridge needed to be designed with care to avoid light pollution.
It was noted that there was a potential conflict between pedestrians and cyclists on the Castle side of the new bridge where various routes converge – this needs to be carefully thought about in the detailed design process.
Piccadilly and Cycle Route
There is still a lack of overall agreement on how to re-allocate available public realm, with differing views on its nature and purpose (is it a street for activity and gathering? Is it a key route through for cyclists? Can these be resolved?). York Cycle Campaign has set out its own thinking on these issues and has identified research and good practice which it sees as relevant in discussion. This is a complex issue and one which sits in a wider context of city-wide thinking on forward strategy addressing changing transport patterns.
The question over how this scheme related to things like funding for older people’s provision, do we need more retail and who will own/manage the new public spaces remains live and extra work on funding, commercial activity and ownership and belonging will be a useful focus for the Gathering Place strand of My Castle Gateway 2.