Architect says harm to York Minster conservation area caused by new cafe and cycle hub plans is 'unacceptable'

Plans to turn the former Minster School into a refectory for York Minster look set to be approved by councillors.

The Minster wants to turn the building into a cafe and create a new public space in the grounds with improved views of the cathedral.

The Archbishop of York, the Most Reverend Stephen Cottrell, has backed the plans in a letter of support to City of York Council.

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York's Minster School set to close after Minster suffers 'catastrophic' loss of ...
The former school building

Funds raised from the cafe will help towards the £22,000 per day running costs of the Minster and its precinct.

In June, the Minster’s annual accounts revealed the impact of the pandemic on its finances, showing a £2.3 million loss.

Minster School closed last summer when The Chapter York, who are responsible for the upkeep and running of the Minster estate, decided it was financially unviable.

The open space is also set to include a gazebo, parasols, an ice cream hut, cycle parking and a cycle service hub, with the existing railings also being moved.

The building will also be given a new roof, but plans for solar panels and a new lift shaft have attracted criticism.

Conservation architect David Carruthers wrote in his submission: “The harm the proposals will cause to the setting of the Minster and other listed buildings, the character and appearance of the conservation area and the significance of the listed building itself are, in my view, completely unacceptable.

“It appears that a commercially driven approach to conversion is outweighing heritage significance here.”

Historic England also raised concerns about the solar panels.

But it is now proposed the solar slates - based upon a traditional welsh roof slate - are used instead of a typical set of solar panels.

The council report states: “The visual differential between the solar slates and the traditional slates which would enclose the system is not considered to be unduly excessive.”

The Archbishop said in a letter to the council: “While we recognise how the Minster has a leadership role to play both in the city and the Church of England, we also have to be exemplary in our actions, not just our words.

“It is not easy to be at the forefront of change; and yet we have a moral duty to act. Chapter has a moral duty to inspire others. The proposed development will provide an example of how heritage buildings can contribute sensitively and appropriately to the city’s climate ambitions and improve the health and wellbeing of the city’s inhabitants.”

Councillors will make a final decision on Thursday, when an application for new landscaping work, seating and the removal of existing trees – and the replanting of replacements – at nearby College Green in Minster Yard will also be considered.