Alternative Visions – the Castle Mills Plaza by Chris Donegani

Chris Donegani lives on Piccadilly and was a regular participant in the workshops we ran to look at the reshaping of public realm along Piccadilly earlier this year. Having been part of the various conversations and given a lot of consideration to the various issues involved, Chris has some concerns over the submitted proposal for the Castle Mills site, and put some positive alternative thoughts on paper.

“A part of the larger proposed Castle Mills building projects into this public space. This causes two problems:

  • The proposed public space is cut off from Piccadilly by the narrow entrance between two tall buildings. This isolates this space from residents of Piccadilly and Walmgate areas.
  • The ramp to the bridge is now forced diagonally across the public space, reducing the useful area of the plaza and further compounding the problems with connecting the plaza with Piccadilly and beyond.

In earlier published designs the ramp from the bridge passed under the building, but this has now been replaced by a commercial unit. As a result, the narrow gap between the two buildings will, I feel, be a hazardous area with many conflicting cycle and pedestrian movements.

Suggested improvement:-

Remove the projecting part of the larger Castle Mills building completely. Move the ramp to run along the northern side of the enlarged area. Narrow Piccadilly carriageway as it passes the plaza. Close the bottom end of Mill Street to vehicles.

This gives a much larger plaza, extending from the river across Piccadilly and into Mill Street so provides a better defined access as well as an increased useful public space area, and better visual connection between the River Foss and Piccadilly. Additional planting and seating could be provided beside the ramp to the bridge, and additional planting and seating could also be added to the enlarged plaza to replace viewing/gathering area lost by the simplified bridge design. Seating at the River Foss end of the plaza will provide a particularly good new public view of Raindale Mill and the Castle Walls.

Outside of the plaza, trees and planting could be used to form a linear green route down the southern side of Mill Street, across Piccadilly and through the southern side of the plaza, down to the river. Cycle routes into Mill Street and Piccadilly would be better defined, and the modifications to Piccadilly carriageway through the new plaza would slow traffic and act as a new gateway for traffic into city. An information point with location and route information could be provided for pedestrians and cyclists.”


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