It was clear from the Step 1 discussions and captured in our brief that people want to be able to:
- Ensure ongoing engagement in the area during the masterplanning process and beyond
- Get involved long term in the area and to make positive changes.
This has been very much confirmed in Step 3. In response to this, this summary has been produced as an interim – rather than in any way “final” – step in the My Castle Gateway process. Below we set out a number of important next steps to continue, develop, deepen and extend the conversation.
BDP: Preferred masterplan work
BDP will be working with the council and with this document to narrow down the choices presented in the masterplan ideas to one preferred masterplan, and this will be taken to the council Executive in April. If adopted, it will form the basis for more formal planning proposals for the area and physical changes which will take a number of years to implement.
But this process of movement towards firm choices will not be simple. Public response to the masterplan ideas does establish a trajectory in some cases (for example there is a clear preference for removal of parking from Castle car park and replacement with a multistorey car park on St.George’s Field) but even here – and more so in the case of other sites and ideas – there are challenges which need to be further discussed and explored. Specifically there is a need to develop the partnerships between the council and local groups and individuals which have already led to creative input into the masterplan around public space, movement and use of the rivers.
For My Castle Gateway Step 4 – as the Preferred Masterplan is developed and beyond – we propose three interlinked strands of work.
Public Debate: The Castle Gateway Challenges Continue
The first is to continue our Step 2 Challenges discussions, to convene ongoing, creative discussion about the underlying and core issues for Castle Gateway. Between January and June 2018 we will run a series of open events to address these challenges head on. As part of these challenge discussions, there is also a need to ensure that the considerable expertise within the city on a variety of issues – transport planning, heritage, flood resilience and others – can be drawn together to cross boundaries between organisations or departments. We will seek to cultivate open and public debate about issues which will not only be important in the development of Castle Gateway but also have wider relevance to the city as a whole.
These might include:-
- Making more publicly accessible the BDP transport modelling done within the masterplan process, and looking at this alongside the transport modelling carried out by Tony May for the Civic Trust, together with the work of York Cycling Campaign and the Walk Cycle Forum
- Continuing conversations between stakeholder bodies which have begun during Advisory Group meetings – for example asking the Environment Agency and Historic England to jointly explore issues around flooding and flood resilience through public events.
Short-term action, Long term influence
The second is that we want to develop – in partnership with, and with practical support from the council – Local Networks for Action based around specific areas within Castle Gateway to ensure:-
- Community-led changes can start to happen now, with necessary small-scale investment through Ward Committees and opportunities for local people to lead change within the framework of the overall Castle Gateway development,
- Ideas can be tried and tested, allowing more radical local change to be given a chance without the need for commitment to permanent change. This might include trialling locations for benches in Tower Gardens, or getting agreement for short-term trials of routes for pedestrian or cycle movement. It might include temporary activities within Castle car park (the Rose Theatre being a pioneer of this idea) or one-off events which might lead to more permanent activities (for example swimming in the Ouse).
Fostering a positive democratic culture in York
Finally, My Castle Gateway has proved – if there was ever any doubt – that there are a large number of people thirsty to be constructively and thoughtfully-engaged with the tough and complex questions facing the city. There are also a significant number of people – through groups, as activists, as professionals – who want to roll up their sleeves and use their knowledge, creativity, ideas and energy to shape the Castle Gateway and York more generally. Yet there are also people who feel let down by local government/public organisations leading to cynicism and negativity, although clearly this is not new and is not a York-only phenomenon. Building on the positive work by the council officers through the council’s Facebook as part of My Castle Gateway, there is scope to develop further ways in which the City of York Council – and the networks developed through Castle Gateway conversation – can actively contribute to fostering a democratic culture via online engagement.