Thank you to everyone who has engaged with the Castle and Eye of York planning application that has been submitted. We have received several comments and questions and we wanted to share answers to as many of them as we can in this blog.
As well as reading this blog you can also watch the Facebook Live Q&A held on 16 February in which members of the project team explained the proposals and answered questions from residents about the plans. You can watch the session here.
Several themes have started to emerge, so here are a few answers to frequently asked questions that we hope might be useful.
2.1 Will replacement parking be provided?
The Castle Gateway Masterplan was approved with cross party support in 2018. The Castle and Eye of York scheme is at the heart of the masterplan and includes closing Castle Car Park and creating a befitting setting of our world class heritage. It would be replaced with a high quality new public space for the city and its residents, whilst also enabling events to take place. Lots of voices in process, particularly from city centre businesses, said they would only support the masterplan if replacement parking was provided.
We are currently at the planning application stage for the Castle and Eye of York area. The key point is that the final decision by Executive to proceed to select a contractor and carry out the detailed design will be subject to a full business case, Equalities Impact Assessment and an agreed and implemented replacement car parking strategy.
The masterplan approach for replacement parking is for a new multi-storey car park at St. George’s Field. We have planning permission for this, but Executive have asked for a full business case review as to whether it remains the best solution. Castle and Eye of York won’t proceed until that has been considered and funding identified but having planning permission gives the best chance of securing government funding.
2.2 Why is this new public space predicated on replacement parking nearby (St George’s Field multi-storey car park) when the applicant hasn’t yet demonstrated that replacement parking is required?
One of the primary objectives of the Castle Gateway project was that the closure of any car parking would need to be offset by replacement car parking. The 2018 masterplan for the area is based on a multi storey car park providing replacement car parking at St George’s Field, and a number of stakeholders and members of the public only supported the closure of Castle Car Park if the replacement car parking is provided first. The multi storey car park is currently subject to a detailed review to determine if it remains the best replacement parking solution.
2.3 Will blue badge parking be provided?
We are retaining 6 disabled parking bays on Tower Street in front of the Hilton Hotel. Castle Car Park is one of the three closest car parks to the city centre, the others being Piccadilly and Q Park. We recognise that although a solution for some, multi-storey car parks are not suitable for some adapted vehicles and that disabled bays are also required across the city. These are available in locations such as Duncombe Place, Carmelite Street and Piccadilly, which are closer than Castle Car Park to the middle of the footstreets, and Bootham Row which is a similar distance as Castle Car Park. Blue badge parking is also permitted on double yellow lines on streets on the edge of the footstreet area such as at Deangate, St Andrewgate and College Green.
In addition, Castlegate will reopen to blue badge holders in September, which will offset some of the loss and is closer to the city centre than Castle Car Park itself.
A broader response to city centre access is being led by the transport team, including trialling a shuttle service, identifying disabled parking locations on the edge of the footstreets wherever possible, as well improving access routes and seating across the city centre. The council are committed to identifying with York Disability Rights Forum two priority disabled car parks for blue badge holders for investment for those who quality of parking spaces, disabled facilities and access routes are a priority over proximity.
Whilst this planning permission seeks to replace Castle Car Park with public realm, the ultimate decision on closing Castle Car Park will need a separate Executive decision and will be linked to the ongoing work on city centre access. The citywide approach, and an Equalities Impact Assessment, will be considered when Executive consider whether to close Castle Car Park in the future.
In terms of disabled parking for use of the site during large events, the planning application notes that further disabled car parking could be made available for events on site if required, and that this would be reviewed as part of the event planning and design process.
2.4 How will conflicts between the Blue Badge car parking spaces and the hotel loading bay be managed and enforced?
The application proposes unrestricted access for service vehicles to the Coppergate Centre and a servicing space for the Hilton Hotel has been retained. Provision for turning vehicles associated with the hotel have been factored in the design of the Castlegate square (junction between Castlegate and Tower Street).
In terms of enforcement, this will be something that will be the responsibility of the council’s transport department.
2.5 Will the proposed hostile vehicle bollards prevent access to Castlegate?
The hostile vehicle mitigation bollards to protect the public space are proposed in the where the currant entrance to Castle Car Park is. Access to Castlegate from Tower Street is not restricted.
2.6 What about parking for evening events, Park and Rides close early?
Some people have noted that the park and ride service finishes too early to be used for evening activities such as the theatre. The replacement car parking strategy will review the operation of Park and Ride, and the proposed St George’s Field multi-storey car park would be a 24-hour facility.
2.7 What about access for York Crown Court and York Castle Museum?
The application proposes authorised vehicle access to the Museum and Court buildings which would be managed through an automated bollard system, allowing. This has been agreed with both the Museum and the Courts.
2.8 If there is access for the court to have parking, could some parking bays be made available for Blue Badge parking?
The parking bays for the courts will be beyond the hostile vehicle measures and have controlled secure access. This forms the protected area and only authorised vehicles can enter this space in line with counter terrorism and police advice.
3.1 How is access being built into the designs?
The planning application sets out how the site is arranged spatially, and covers the fundamental elements to make sure that the site is accessible:
- access routes and pathways are all compliant, for example no pathway is less than minimum requirement that allows two wheelchairs to pass, and there are no pinch points where people can’t get through
- ground profile/ crossfall of the site – create step free access across the site so that people can access the area completely unhindered, and all gradients work for people with mobility issues.
3.2 Will there be more seating that isn’t so low throughout the development?
A lot of the detail will follow at the next stage, when we will look at specifics like:
- how that feels on foot or how easy is it for a wheelchair user to be able to get around and access the site
- ensuring that the materials and surfaces are fit for purpose, for example contrasting vertical elements, contrasting colours or kick plates for people that are visually impaired so that they can sense where certain elements are
- a range of seating options across the site, have tried to use natural elements where people can sit and perch but we will making sure that we have got formal seating that is suitable for people who are disabled as well
3.3 What will the boardwalk behind Female Prison be like?
The boardwalk is accessible in that it is wide enough for people in wheelchairs to access it, the surface would be appropriate in terms of slip resistance, there is no stepped access to the area. There is quite a challenging level change there, but we have managed to smooth it out by the fact that the boardwalk is elevated, so it doesn’t sit on the ground profile itself which is quite steep because it is a riverbank, so we have managed to make it accessible for all.
The key thing was to work with trees that are in that area, so the boardwalk is designed on stilts to create level access that meanders through the space, whilst minimising impact on biodiversity in that area and retaining trees in that space. In essence this could be a unique part of York where people can walk/ move through the tree canopies.
3.4 The surface on Tower Street is described as ‘sets’ – will this be a wheelchair-accessible level surface for Blue Badge holders rather than cobbles?
The software for the 3D model has limitations in terms of the material palette and so whilst the flythrough may look unlevel, the application proposes flat stone setts.
3.5 Has an Equalities Impact Assessment been done?
We are currently at the planning application stage for the Castle and Eye of York area, and planning applications do not require an Equalities Impact Assessment. Instead they have a Design and Access statement. The final decision by Executive to proceed to select a contractor and carry out the detailed design will be subject to a full business case and an Equalities Impact Assessment.
3.6 What about dropped kerbs?
Level surfaces, location of drop kerbs etc will be considered in the detailed design stage.
- How it will be funded?
We have submitted the planning application now, as obtaining planning permission would put us in the best position to secure external funding to help us deliver the scheme. Government funding, such as Levelling Up and devolution funding, is all dependent on having a ‘shovel ready’ scheme.
The Castle Mills apartments, part of the masterplan on the other side of the river, will bring forward a number of public benefits, such as affordable housing, a new pedestrian and cycle bridge over the Foss, and a cycle route through the area. The sale of the Castle Mills apartments will also help to pay for the wider masterplan.
4.2 Can people get involved in crowdfunding?
That is an interesting proposal. We are not at the point of doing the detailed business case around the funding. There may be funding gaps, so crowdfunding and corporate sponsorship could be considered as part of the business case as to how we pay for the whole piece.
5.1 How advanced are the designs at this stage?
We have submitted a planning application with a set of drawings that show spatially where the different elements are going to sit, their form and how people are going to access them. The drawings show there will be a seating area here; there will be a fountain here; there will be a pathway and an access way here.
There is a lot of further detailed design work that would follow at the next stage, post planning decision. We would then look at the detail for how all of those things work when they are put together: how the paving works; how the edge of the water feature works; how the seating works – whether it has got a backrest, armrest, how deep it is, how high it is. We will make sure that it is fit for purpose, that it is safe, that everyone can access it, and make sure that it works.
6.1 What will make this a great place for families to come?
Play has been requested by residents, and was a big wish throughout the My Castle Gateway conversations.
The space has been designed as a playful piece of public realm. The river edge has seating areas, stepping-stones, and a wild natural feel. Sustainable urban drainage provides elements of water, which are natural and exploratory in their nature, and a few incidental routes/ small pathways go through planting. We have introduced landform with some banking and changes in height.
Rather than a formal traditional playground, we designed play into the landscape. We have got places where parents can sit and quite easily watch over their children whilst they explore the natural landscape with lots of little elements in it and things that children will enjoy.
A key element is the water feature that will be a big attractor to the space, with a playful feel and seating. People wanted to play, running in and out fountains, like Sheffield Peace Gardens or Kings Cross where they are used throughout year, but especially in the summer.
6.2 What about skate boarders?
A space for use by skate boarders was proposed in the open brief for the area. There have been some positive comments regarding the possibilities of the area for roller skating and skate boarding, mixed with some negative comments about conflicts that might arise. This will be something that we consider in detail at the next stage.
7.1 How will people that are visually impaired people navigate the area, and be alerted to the fountain if it is flat to the ground?
The application shows that we want to have a water feature that is flush and some fountains, located in the central public space. The design is flush so that they can be turned off at certain times, such as during large scale events.
The full design would be part of the next stage. We would speak to a specialist water feature designer, and that is where we would start to consider how it is going to look, how big it is going to be, what the edge treatment might be. People should be reassured that there is more detail to come, and we will be looking to address any concerns.
7.2 How can we make sure the fountains are used in the way they’re intended?
Tales of the Parliament Street fountain and washing up liquid are often shared. That fountain was old and was more symbolic as opposed to having active uses like the new one proposed. The engineering behind it is evolving constantly and makes it easier to maintain. Other authorities have similar fountains and they are not often vandalised. The fountain has been a key ask from our residents, and we have to be optimistic. We don’t want to work on the basis that misuse may happen and therefore we shouldn’t do it. The more spaces are used, the less prone they are to vandalism or people misbehaving.
8.1 What are the plans for long term maintenance?
Maintenance ties into the business case. We have to secure the capital funding that pays for everything that we are creating and building, but we need to think about how we fund the maintenance of that in the future as well: how we look after the landscaping; how do we make sure that it is clean. The business plan will look at what the long-term cost of that is, and will plan how we continue to maintain it, like the Museums Gardens and Dean’s Park. This needs to be the same quality and bring lots of benefits for people.
9. SAFETY & SECURITY
9.1 How are we going to make the riverside path a lovely and safe place to be?
Some people have said that they don’t always feel safe on the path by the Foss and the Coppergate Centre.
Creating spaces that are attractive, well used by people at all times of year, well lit, and that have natural surveillance, is key to people feeling safe in this whole area. Creating life and activity in the space mean it is less likely to have anti-social behaviour and vandalism taking place.
The new development at Ryedale House, and the Castle Mills apartments that the council will be building will overlook that space and create natural surveillance.
Details regarding how the space will be managed will be considered post planning, for example a range of measures will be included such as CCTV and increased security patrols in the area.
9.2 Will there be lighting on the path behind the museum?
Lighting designers making sure appropriate light levels are sufficient everywhere within the site so that it makes people feel safe. There will be lighting behind the museum building, the aim is to retain vegetation and landscaping that is there, but there will be some selective pruning to make sure that those visual connections from over the river or elsewhere with natural surveillance happens. Hopefully both side of the boardwalk will be active – Castle Mills and Castle Gardens, and the Castle and Eye of York space, so there will be a reason to walk between those spaces. All those things combined will hopefully mean that it is a space that people want to and are comfortable to walk through.
We have spoken to stakeholders and will continue to do so. We need to ensure that there is lighting, but there are challenges and balances to make. The more lighting you have in a space can feel safer, but we also need to respect the heritage and ecology in the area. There is a balancing act which the planners will have to decide upon, guided by people such as the police and our conservation architects to arrive at what the right balance is for things like lighting for the space.
10.1 What sorts of events might we expect to see?
We have designed a space that at its heart is a great piece of public space for the city, but that can also be used for events at different times.
We trialled the Shakespeare Rose Theatre in 2018 and 2019, where 70,000 people attended performances in the first year, and we also trialled small scale community group events.
A range of events could take place in this area from bigger ticketed events, to free to attend events. We have designed the infrastructure to be built into the ground so that events can take place. That reduces the cost of running events, making it more affordable for small community groups that want to host events, as well as for those wanting to hold larger events.
Details regarding how the space will be programmed and managed will be considered post planning.
10.2 Would you consider moving the Christmas market into this space during December?
The My City Centre vision was approved at the council’s Executive in November 2021, and sets the long term vision for the city centre. One part of that is looking at how we can better spread events so that they are not just concentrated in places like Parliament Street. Therefore, the ability of this space is there to potentially have some of the Christmas market, so that we can spread it better across the city centre, whilst also spreading the economic benefit for our businesses, reducing congestion and creating more spots to breathe around the events that take place.
As well as the central events space, we have also looked at the Eye of York, the area in front of the Castle Museum, and the female prison plinth and how that could be an area that could be used as a speakers corner or somewhere where local groups can stage events.
11.TREES & PLANTING
11.1 Is the tree in the Eye of York being kept?
There has been a huge amount of public debate around the Eye of York whether the oak tree there should remain. There was a clear consensus that it should and we’ve retained that in the plan. We’ve managed to retain a lot of trees across the site and to add in new planting.
11.2 Will the new trees around Clifford’s Tower impact on view and sight lines?
Planting and greening are a really important aspects that we’re trying to pull through, but equally we have been very mindful of the visual connections between the historic buildings and how they sit.
We have looked at the planting and the heights of tress to make sure that the visual connections aren’t obscured, for example if you are sat in the Eye of York space where it opens out towards Clifford’s Tower there’s a really strong visual connection maintained there even though there are some lower level trees near the radial path round the motte.
We have retained a lot of the existing trees, whilst trying to green the site because green and trees have come through as important, and we have tried to make sure that views are framed or that those visual connections aren’t lost, so we’ve been really mindful about how we have positioned them.
Ultimately the height and type of tree will be selected at the next stage so we can select trees that only grow to certain height, or more compact forms to make sure that what goes in on day one doesn’t grow and obscure the views that we know are protected and that people want to be maintained.
As we go through the planning process, there will be different views. For example, conservation might have a view that a tree is not in the right place and we can work with the planners to adapt and change if there is planting that is causing issues. Getting the right trees in the right place will benefit the whole site and responds to what people have told us and asked us and to do.
11.3 Why does the Eye of York have to be nibbled into by paving?
The application responds to the open brief which wanted people to be able to use the space more and the current grass makes this unsuitable at certain times of year. The landscape architects have also responded to calls for more biodiversity by getting much richer planting into the centre, around and beneath the retained oak tree. The inclusion of a small amount of hard landscaping provides a more flexible use of the space, for example café seating or curation space for the museum, and educational space facing onto Clifford’s Tower that enables visiting groups to congregate there, slightly away from the entrance steps.
12.YORK CASTLE MUSEUM
12.1 What is happening with the Castle Museum extension?
The museum has ambitions to grow and expand their offer, and pre-pandemic they were looking at a new entrance building that could emerge out into the site on the end of the female prison building. The pandemic has meant that the museum is reviewing their plan, but they remain committed to developing the museum.
The current application shows this space is an area of soft landscaping, to save an area which if the museums plans progress and they secure funding and planning permission, then that could accommodate a new building.
With this size and scale of regeneration project there is always an element that the plans that you take forward are a snapshot in time. We have kept this area flexible so this scheme works without the building for now, but it will work with one should one be forthcoming in the future.
13.1 Will you be able to cycle through the park?
The application retains cyclist movement through the area although no dedicated lanes are proposed. Cycling will not be permitted on the boardwalk behind the museum due to the narrow width of the path.
Any cycle parking in the vicinity of the site would be retained and temporary cycle stands would be provided for events if required.
For information, outside the application boundary but neighbouring the site, highway improvements to Clifford Street/ Tower Street will provide a primary route for cyclists, that could be used rather than through the public space.
13.2 What happened to the bike friendly bridge over the Foss to access Piccadilly?
The new cycle and pedestrian bridge over the River Foss was approved as part of the Castle Mills planning application and so it sits outside the boundary of the current application, but is still proposed as part of the wider masterplan.
For information, outside the current application boundary but neighbouring the site, the Castle Mills scheme includes:
- Landscaping and public access to land behind the Castle Museum with new pedestrian and cycle routes to and from St George’s Field and the wider city to the South and East.
- The new public space between the two Castle Mills apartment buildings will create new pedestrian and cycle links to and from Piccadilly, the River Foss and beyond.
14.1 Why is there no public art?
The detailing of how we will curate the space will follow at the next stage, for example we have discussed with York Liberal Jewish Community how we might embellish the memorial space.
14.2 As Castlegate is to be one of the main roads leading to the space is there any plans regenerate the street itself?
Castlegate is not covered within this planning application, but the masterplan covers a wider area than just the Castle and Eye of York area and identifies Castlegate as a future phase. This would consider how the street develops, how we can celebrate the history of the street, and how it can better link the city centre to the new public spaces to make sure that Castle Gateway feels part of the centre of York and not a place which is separate to it.
Castlegate has had a real change in nature through the pandemic with some businesses obtaining café licences for outdoor seating. That presented challenges as this meant that blue badge parking was removed from the street. A decision has been taken that blue badge holders will be able to park in Castlegate from September 2022, so we will need to consider Castlegate in the context of also enabling people to park in this space and increase accessibility.
14.3 Are there any flood prevention proposals?
The Environment Agency are part of the Castle Gateway Advisory group who have been instrumental in guiding and refining the masterplan and the applications within it. This application proposes a ‘Sustainable Urban Drainage Scheme’ within the planted river park which enables water to drain away slowly.
For information, outside the application boundary but neighbouring the site, the Environment Agency are progressing a demountable flood barrier on Tower Street near Tower Gardens to replace the sandbag walls currently used during flood events. The Foss side of the site is regulated by the Foss Barrier.
14.4 What about toilets and disabled toilets?
Coppergate shopping centre public toilets are available adjacent to car park during the day, including disabled access with RADAR key. We are also looking at options as a city to work with businesses and partners to ensure that their disabled toilet provision is advertised and always free to use, regardless of whether someone is a customer. There are several locations in the area that could tie into this strategy including the Castle Museum and the Hilton hotel.
Find out more about the application and watch the flythrough at york.gov.uk/CastleEyeofYork
View the Castle and Eye of York planning application via thePlanning Portal quoting reference number 22/00209/FULM. You can comment supporting or objecting to this application as part of the statutory planning consultation via (responses are encouraged before 8 March 2022):
- the Planning Portal
- email to firstname.lastname@example.org
- post to Development Management, City of York Council, West Offices, York YO1 6GA