An update on the regeneration of the Castle Gateway area and the next delivery stages was reported to the council’s Executive on 16 June 2022 (a webcast of the meeting is also available). A summary of the decisions made are outlined within this blog.
1. Castle and Eye of York
Earlier this year, the council submitted a planning application and shared the ambitious designs of what the Castle and Eye of York area would look like. The planning submission followed extensive engagement with residents and businesses about what they would want to see in the area, with public ideas feeding into the plans for the site. Revised designs have been submitted in response to comments received to date and the application is due to be considered by planning committee in July or August.
Executive members agreed to support the inclusion of the new public realm at Castle and Eye of York in the council’s round two Levelling Up Fund bid and, subject to planning permission being secured, to prepare tender documents so that the procurement of a contractor is ready to proceed should the funding bid be successful.
The recent completion of the English Heritage restoration of Clifford’s Tower and new plaza area has provided an exciting glimpse of how the Castle and Eye of York will be transformed once the full ambition of the regeneration has been realised.
2. Castle Mills
Members considered an update on the Castle Mills site, which will feature a new riverside park, pedestrian and cycle bridge, and new apartments that will help to fund the wider masterplan’s public benefits. Unfortunately, this part of the development has been subject to delays during the initial detailed design and costing process due to COVID-19, Brexit and the current inflationary pressures.
Because of these external pressures, as well as challenges in arriving at design solutions that were acceptable to the council during the initial detailed design and costing process, the decision has been made to terminate the existing contract with the external contractor. To continue to drive the project forward, members agreed to procure a new contractor to complete the design and costing process, to allow construction to begin (subject to Executive approval) in summer 2023.
3. Replacement car parking
Given Castle Mills is the primary funding stream for other elements of the masterplan, the delay means that the decision on the replacement car parking solution that will allow Castle Car Park to close is not required until summer 2023. Executive members agreed to use the time to collect more car parking data, engage further with city centre stakeholders, and assess all options to identify the most suitable replacement parking solution for the closure of Castle Car Park.
4. Frequently Asked Questions (source: City of York Council 8 June Press Release)
4.1 Effects of COVID-19 and the rise in inflation on the project
Since the last Executive decision, planning permission has been secured for both Castle Mills and St George’s Field MSCP, and £4 million of West Yorkshire Transport Funding has outline business case approval secured for the new pedestrian footbridge and connecting riverside cycle route at Castle Mills. Extensive resident, business and stakeholder engagement has continued through the My Castle Gateway project.
However, factors, which are outside of the council’s control and that continue to affect businesses and residents, such as the impact of COVID-19, Brexit and rising inflation, have also affected the Castle Gateway project.
The Castle Mills development, which will create a new riverside park, a new pedestrian and cycle bridge, and new apartments that will help to fund the wider masterplan’s public benefits, has been subject to delays during the detailed design and costing process. This is due to COVID-19, Brexit and the current inflationary pressures, which have made sub-contractor pricing of construction packages challenging.
Because of these external pressures, as well as further challenges in arriving at design solutions during the initial detailed design and costing process that were acceptable to the Council, the Council has taken the decision to terminate the existing contract. To continue to drive the project forward, members agreed to procure a new contractor to complete the detail design/and costing process, to allow construction to begin (subject to Executive approval) in summer 2023.
4.2 Cost to council for termination process
The termination process is on-going, and contractual and legal discussions continue between the council and the contractor. Where any design work to date can be used it will be, and the council has taken extensive legal advice to confirm and safeguard its position against any abortive work.
Whilst this is a disappointing outcome, it highlights the council’s prudent approach to procurement. By adopting the two-stage strategy it enabled design issues to be drawn out in the initial stage of the Castle Mills project, and affirmative action to be taken where the council’s requirements haven’t been delivered. Where the council deems that elements of the design have been satisfactorily completed, including the bridge, drainage and highways, they may be used in further design work, saving time and money when going back out to tender. We look forward to now progressing the project to delivery with a new construction partner.
4.3 St George’s Field
The Executive remains committed to a replacement car parking strategy that will allow Castle Car Park to be replaced with world class public realm.
Given the commercial return from Castle Mills is the primary funding stream for other elements of the masterplan, the delay as a result of COVID-19 and inflationary pressures and the termination of the contract means that no decision on the most suitable replacement car parking options that allow Castle Car Park to close are required until summer 2023.
When a construction price is agreed for Castle Mills, further evidence collected will inform a decision on what option represents the best alternative replacement parking solution for the closure of Castle Car Park.
Further parking data will be collected and engagement with city centre businesses and stakeholders will take place to inform a future decision around replacement car parking. All options to identify a suitable replacement parking solution for the closure of Castle Car Park will be assessed during this period. Prior to any decision being taken by the Executive, cross party scrutiny committee members will also be consulted as part of pre decision scrutiny.
The council is already installing new car park counters and is also working with the BID to get more data which will help support future discussions and decisions about parking demand and solutions.
4.4 Car parking numbers
Car parking numbers, which were assumed at the masterplan stage, have changed due to Environment Agency works, planning application amendments and changes in the masterplan design stages. The new 372 space multi-story car park was replacing two surface levels car parks currently providing 594 spaces a net loss of 222 spaces
Should this solution not go ahead as a replacement car parking solution for Castle Car Park there would be a net loss of 327 spaces.
4.5 Next steps for the Castle Gateway project
The council is committed to transforming this part of the city, and turning Castle Car Park into a world class public space. The planning submission is currently going through the planning process and will be considered soon.
Members agreed to submit a levelling up funding bid in July which could result in significant investment into the Castle Gateway project. If approved the £20 million bid will provide significant investment to around £10 million to deliver the Castle and Eye of York public realm and a further £10 million to revitalise the wider city centre, including Coney Street, the Riverside Quarter, and Parliament Street.
Executive agreed to procure a new contractor to complete the detail design and costing phase at Castle Mills. It is hoped that this will allow construction to proceed in summer 2023. This will be following the tender process and will include a final review of project viability, supported by updated sale values to ensure the commercial return remains within the Castle Gateway project business case.