Thanks a blot! Quest for worst eyesores in historic York

FROM the imposing Gothic architecture of York Minster to the medieval, cobbled streets of The Shambles, the landmarks of York are famous across the globe.

The city remains one of the nation's most cherished locations with heritage dating back 2,000 years to the Roman era.

But despite its architectural beauty, it has not escaped unscathed from the blight of more modern building blunders.

York Civic Trust is now on a mission to record some of the most infamous blots on the landscape in the city to ensure future developments do not ruin glorious views across the city.

Two of the worst examples cited are the concrete monoliths of Ryedale House, which looms large over the historic Castle Museum and York Crown Court, and the towering Stonebow House, constructed in the brutalist style, which is sited, somewhat uncomfortably, close to The Shambles, the picturesque medieval street with overhanging wooden timbered buildings.

The civic trust is now asking the public to submit photos of their favourite – and not-so-favourite – views of the city to compile an archive of images to help shape future development.

Architects and designers will be able to access the archive to assess how their plans will look within the city, and it is hoped the library of images will also provide a valuable resource for planners at York Council.

York Civic Trust's director, Peter Brown, said: "The views of York are a composite of a long history and often contain cherished landmarks and landscapes which give pleasure to all.

"The fact they enrich our lives often on a daily basis is reason enough to ensure that they survive and are not degraded."

The Views of York project will compile a collection of images of some of the city's most famous landmarks, including the Minster, Clifford's Tower and St Mary's Abbey in the Museum Gardens.

Mr Brown stressed, however, that he is also aiming to collate an archive focusing on some of the city's more modest, views, including details of ironwork, carvings and the architecture of specific buildings.

The project also involves a long-term aim of purchasing a 40,000 laser camera, which will be used to create a three-dimensional model of York.

It is hoped the 3D map of York will then become a valuable tool in the planning process, allowing developers to lay out a virtual image of their building to see what impact it could have on the city.

An unprecedented number of major developments in York have already been given the go-ahead, including the transformation of the former Terry's chocolate factory site and the 750m expansion of York University.

One of the UK's biggest brownfield sites, the 85-acre York Central site near the railway station, has been heralded as a once-in-a-lifetime development opportunity – although concerns have been expressed about its impact on the historic heart of the city.

But Mr Brown insisted the Views of York project is not aimed at stunting development.

A similar 3D model has already been created in Newcastle and has helped steer developers to the most suitable sites to construct new buildings.

Mr Brown added: "It is simply about ensuring that we have the right development in the right place and that it is in keeping with the rest of the city."

The Lord Mayor of York, Coun Sue Galloway, has already named her favourite view – looking out at the Minster in the distance from the corner of Beckfield Lane and Almsford Road.

Mr Brown, whose own favourite view is looking up Petergate from King's Square, will be writing to other dignitaries including the Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, to ask them to take part in the project. He is keen to glean the opinions of the wider public, both visitors to the city as well as residents, architects and artists, and will also be contacting Royal Mail to try to sign up postmen and postwomen as well as taxi drivers for the project.

Mr Brown said: "We hope that the public will work with us and send us either their own photographs or images of paintings, prints and drawings produced by others.

"It is the plan to create an extensive collection which will not only be a reference point for planning decision but also a useful resource for everyone to access."

More information about the Views of York project is available on York Civic Trust's website at www.yorkcivictrust.co.uk/viewsofyork, along with a downloadable application form to submit images.

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