Public Spaces

A response added following a heritage walk around the Eye of York and Castle area.

In terms of Public Space, through the Step 1 Open Brief process people said they wanted to be able to:

  • Come together
  • Attend large scale events (music, theatre, fairs)
  • Use the Eye of York as a place of political protest
  • Commemorate and remember, especially the 1190 massacre of York’s Jewish Community
  • Sit down and enjoy the views in lots of different places in the area, including views of the Ouse and the Foss
  • Have spaces where it is possible to reflect, think and remember
  • To see interesting things: art, fountains, wildlife, trees
  • To eat and drink, whether sitting on the ground with a picnic or at cafes/restaurants.
  • To linger with no pressure to buy anything
  • Be there at night as well as during the day
  • Be there all year round

The masterplan proposals included a number of ideas which responded to the wish for a new public space for a variety of uses, for increased richness of uses of existing public spaces and for the use of street space to create public place rather than simply allow traffic movement.

Perhaps the most important of the Key Ideas was the proposal for new uses for Castle Car Park (Site C1). This received a large volume of comments and responses. The majority of these supported the closure of the car park and creation of new parking elsewhere, although there were a minority of responses in favour of retaining and improving parking there, or generally stating that city centre parking was important. There were more “keep it” comments on social media than via other routes.

The majority of responses in favour of public space suggested a place where people could spend time. Some people imagined a place where music or theatre events took place. Others simply a ‘space to relax’. Or a place which provided orientation, child-focused activities, or respite from shopping. There was a number of comments which called for the proposed Clifford’s Tower Visitor Centre to be resited somewhere else as part a new public space.

There was a common request at the open brief stage for a place not taken over by commerce, although responses to the masterplan leaned more in favour of cafes and restaurants. For some there was a sense that cafes/restaurants should be permanent and housed within new and existing buildings, for others they imagined food and drink as ‘street food’ from temporary kiosks.  There was some support for increased green space (perhaps expanding the green around Clifford’s Tower) but also suggestions of other ways that green landscape could be introduced into harder landscaping.

Many responses suggested that the re-purposing of the car park area should be part of an overall landscape scheme for the Eye of York area (T5) which involved artists (T9). That said, there was a feeling that the artistic interventions were an idea that was both ‘fantastic and dangerous’, that commissions should be part of the ‘overall design’ and that briefing should be done with care and in ways when ensure it ‘reflects York’. Imaginative (but not intrusive) use of lighting was welcomed (T10).

There were many responses to the suggestion of a new building at the rear of the Coppergate Centre, fronting on to the Castle and Eye of York (Site C3). The most frequent comments were that this should better link the shopping centre with the proposed new public space, that it should provide toilets, and should be carefully designed to improve the aspect and to maintain views. Removal of the redundant Coppergate service ramp (T8) was mentioned and supported in a small number of responses.

There was support for the possibility of the Castle Museum extending and creating a new entrance and better links with outdoor space (Site C2), though there were concerns with a new extension at the end of the Female Prison.

Across Tower Street in Tower Gardens (Site RC2), there was much discussion around the suggestion of a new building (RC2B). There was overwhelming support for the Arts Barge project (T13) and strongly felt concern for any development or changes that did not accommodate  the Arts Barge. The most common response was to say no to the Pavilion (Idea B) as there was a perception that it may disrupt the Art Barge plans. Yet there were other objections, such as any structure would include blocking views to the Ouse. There was a minority interest in the benefits a building could bring, although maybe located in a different part of Tower Gardens, potentially providing a platform area from the bridge to allow use in times of flood.

There was positive interest in landscaping (also T12), this included dealing with flood resilience (possibly with paving), a big vote for more seating and some interest in using trees to create a peaceful Tower Gardens (although throughout the entire My Castle Gateway process there have been conflicting views on trees in Tower Gardens and elsewhere). There were some responses in favour of encouraging new activities but also others who wanted it to remain simply a quiet space.

On St. George’s Field, there was a limited but positive response in terms of screening the existing sewage pumping station (T17) and commemorating the site of the Knights Templar chapel (T18). While many were in favour of a multi-storey on St George’s Field (see below), there was a small minority who were concerned for the future of the fair or interested in it being a green, open space, issues also expressed through a film made in the first phase of My Castle Gateway.

To the other side of the Castle and Eye of York across The Foss, there was support for making the northern end of Piccadilly (P1 and T2) into a pedestrian space, rather than its current perception as an overly-wide and unattractive street. Links across The Foss are discussed below.