Looking at the responses through the lens of our final Challenge ‘Ownership and Values’ allows us to draw together contributors’ views on issues of financial delivery and the role of Council in development. Yet is also allows us to connect those questions to the crucial issue of local ownership over the area as well as the ability for people who live in York to continue to be able to shape the Castle Gateway project as decisions start to be made and, more fundamentally, to be active in the city’s local democracy.
Through the Step 1 opening briefing process people said they wanted to be able to:
- Shop at independent shops or visit independent cafes or restaurants
- Develop small and independent businesses
- Not have to spend money – a place to hang out for free
- Develop DIY, small-scale community enterprise and community arts
- Be sure that different ways of being in the space will be enabled and encouraged
- Enjoy being in spaces alongside tourists and for both groups to happily co-exist
- Live affordably in their city in low cost social housing
Community/local ownership over the area
There were a significant number of comments emphasising that the area should be for ‘locals’. This was especially articulated in terms of Piccadilly in terms of small businesses (more on this below) but came up regularly in answer to many other Masterplan Ideas too. Tensions articled throughout the My Castle Gateway process between the tourists and locals and between the city which is for tourists and the suburbs which ‘are in decline’ came up regularly in response to the masterplan ideas. This was also articulated in terms of tensions between student accommodation versus affordable housing for local people (both on Piccadilly, the Castle Mills site and in general). We need ‘more student accommodation’, ‘more coffee shops please’ or ‘more hotels and restaurants obvs’ acted as sarcastic comments which tended to attract ‘likes’ on the council’s Facebook group.
Piccadilly as a place for local and small business
There was almost universal support for creating the conditions for small business on Piccadilly. Under this banner there was a lot of very positive support for Spark (Site P1), with very imaginative ideas of what it might mean to visit the area in the future. Others were very supportive of the spirit and ethos of Spark but saw a more permanent set of buildings being necessary. There was a lot of support for creative, artistic business, street food and cafes while others called for greengrocers and more everyday shops rather than only, what they regarded, as ‘hipster’ businesses.
There was a significant minority who were against Spark for aesthetic reasons, this was much more prevalent on the council’s Facebook page than via any of our other modes of feedback.
The Role of City of York Council
In the Masterplan Ideas Northminster and Banana Warehouse sites (36 to 50 Piccadilly) (Site P2) we ask people about the role they thought the City of York Council should play in relation to developers. While there were a few in support of simply encouraging developers, and some keen on influencing developers, the majority were in favour of the Council taking a more proactive role and acting as a partner in development. Two strongly-worded contributions emphasised the council needed to be much more proactive that it is currently and another mention possible use of Compulsory Purchase Orders on Piccadilly.
Paying for the Castle Gateway Ideas
In terms of paying for the regeneration of the area, there were perhaps two main trends. Some acted to make compromises through volunteering certain sites for more commercial development as trade offs (Castle Mills Car Park – Site P3). Another significant strand that arose via Facebook was scepticism about the costs of delivering the project, and suggestions that the money would be better spent on other things such as potholes, public toilets and social care. This is an area that needs further public exploration in the next step of My Castle Gateway.
A question of local democracy
For many this concern that locals were not being considered reflected a deeply-rooted scepticism about the council in terms of its ways of working and its sincerity in seeking engagement. Indeed, the hope that the My Castle Gateway project indicates a new approach has been a feature of feedback on both the My Castle Gateway Briefing and Challenges process.
One issue emerged through the idea for the Pavilion in Tower Garden’s Arts Barge, which was seen by many to be an example of the council not working well in partnership. The Arts Barge did figure in the masterplan ideas under River Corridors Transport and Public Realm ideas but it was not flagged under the RC2 idea for the pavilion. As a result it was very easy for people to think the Arts Barge and its planning approval had been ignored in the masterplan ideas. While it was not the intension to sideline the Arts Barge, the responses do reflect concern amongst local people over the council’s ability to respond to and encourage local people’s creativity and ambitions. The next phase of My Castle Gateway will very actively seek to keep open the dialogue between Castle Gateway project and this knowledge, creativity and energy. Part of the challenge here is to keep showing the public that the council is going take the My Castle Gateway process seriously.
There were persistent comments on the council’s Facebook page – linked to posts on Castle Gateway – which reflected a lack of faith in the council and in the possibility of a positive future for York more generally. It would be easy, perhaps, to dismiss these comments but they reveal their lack of confidence they will be heard and that they can – in partnership with the council and other local people – make a difference to places they live, work and care about. Working, as My Castle Gateway has, across these different platforms (survey, facebook, twitter) and different kinds of events has made visible quite different social networks, information contexts and quite different senses of whether change is possible. The next phase of My Castle Gateway will seek to actively work via the council’s general Facebook group to engage the conversation in different ways. We were aware this was an issue going into this phase and there were some excellent examples of positive Facebook interaction from council officers and between people as part of the Masterplan Ideas.