Eye of York – responses to the four designs options

Over the past two weeks we’ve been testing the plans – and four options – for the Eye of York. You can read about the different options here.

Mid-way through the discussions we published a summary of contributions and in this report below, written after the end of the engagement period, we have updated this summary and linked to the My Castle Gateway Flickr site where we have screenshotted and tagged responses. Not everyone gave permission for their comments to be anonymously added but we have incorporated the main themes from these discussions below.

Options 1 and Option 2

Those who have argued in favour of Option 1 or Option 2 have made the following points:

  • The square shaped design in The Eye space adds balance to the already dominating Clifford’s Tower circular Motte and potential pathway.
  • The square design and its angles allow numerous focal points. It represents conformity, rationality, structure, order and stability which is perfect for a space between a Court Building, Museum and Prison.
  • The tree needs to be moved in order enable the curated space and other activities.
  • In terms of Option 2, there would be more biodiversity than there is currently
  • More shade distributed around the area to sit in

Options 3 and 4

Some said they would prefer the area to stay as it is and did not like any of the options. A larger group responded to aspects of the Option 3 and 4 designs. Factors in this included a desire to keep the tree oak and wanting a ciruclar or oval design. Looking beyond any of these options, there was concern with too much paving, alternative ideas suggested about how performances could be managed and general support for more benches and seating.

Keeping the oak tree

Those who have argued in favour of keeping the tree – which is the majority of those who have taken part – have highlighted the following reasons:

  • It is a mature oak tree, it has been growing for 40 years and it should be valued,
  • CYC are allowing too many mature trees to be taken down through the planning process. Where they are required to be replaced, size/species/etc are often not specified, or where they are the applicant usually substitutes something smaller/cheaper and this is not prevented.
  • Trees are often removed simply because they haven’t been maintained when they should have – the alders outside the Wetherspoons being a nearby example.
  • The tree has been neglected but could be re-shaped so that there is more light to the ground beneath and less interruption of the views. A number of people have noted the harm being done by the carousel van parking right next to the trunk.
  • The tree was planted to commemorate 15 years of Alex Lyon as York MP – and this should be remembered and respected.
  • It provides shade and can contribute towards cooling the area, in the context of climate change.
  • It has become part of people’s memories of the area (e.g. the end of Blood + Cholate) and light up at Christmas or for Pride.
  • The Open Brief to use the area for performance and exhibitions, with ‘more imagination’ the tree could be worked around.

The Eye: Oval or Circular Shape

Those who have argued in favour of the circular or oval options have made the case:

  • It has had an oval shape there for 200 years
  • It symbolically reflects the name ‘eye’

Benches and seating

In general, there is strong support for new benches and seating.


There were ideas expressed for keeping the tree and focusing the performance space and seating in the Female Prison area.


A number of people expressed concern that there would be too much paving and not enough grass, trees and other planting. Some made the point that having hard spaces does not help with managing rain fall and might contribute towards flooding, others thought a greener space would make the area a more pleasant place to spend time.

Next steps

The council team will now consider this feedback and then respond. We’ll be back in touch with everyone who has contributed to this discussion soon with the council’s response.

1 thought on “Eye of York – responses to the four designs options”

  1. leave as is, after all it is “US” the Residents and Citizens of York that have to live with whatever. I have not seen anything from the Museum, The Courts, The Council and/or the general public. All we have had is Companies and Young Designers that A. Will never see is, B. Have to affiliation with the City and C. May have had UNI degree. And this is just the “EYE Of York” and what is quickly becoming a Sand Castle of Clifford’s Tower.


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