Fresh push launched to re-develop key sites in York

CITY leaders in York are to try to kick-start stalled developments and increase the number of homes being built as a row develops over one of the region’s biggest re-development sites.

York Council is to extend its Get York Building project for another year after the first 12 months saw work start on the Terry’s site and permission granted for the second phase of the Hungate residential scheme,

Work is also expected to start on the Castle Piccadilly site this year with proposals expected for the former Nestle factory later in 2014.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

The York Central development, a 35 hectare site that has 
been derelict for decades, has been one of the key focuses of the initiative.

Last year the authority earmarked close to £10m from its economic investment fund to support the building of a new road bridge to give access to the site from Holgate Road and 
make it more attractive to developers.

But a political divide over the project emerged yesterday as York’s Liberal Democrats expressed scepticism over the idea.

James Alexander, Labour leader of the council, criticised the Lib Dems saying it was “disappointing that they have come out against public investment in getting this brownfield site developed which is needed to secure well-paid jobs and decent homes for York’s future”.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

He added: “They want to continue to hold York back even after being voted out of office by jeopardising the pump-priming of private sector investment using public funds.”

Announcing the decision to help fund the bridge last year, Coun Alexander described York Central as “arguably York’s most significant brownfield site” with the potential for 1,000 homes and businesses employing 8,000 people which could add £600m to the city’s economy.

The last effort to regenerate the York Central site stalled in the credit crunch with the cost of providing access seen as a major factor in putting off potential investors during the economic downturn.

But the Lib Dems yesterday questioned the decision to use public money to fund the bridge as the authority prepares to consider the city’s budget for the year ahead.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Group leader Keith Aspden said: “We need to support economic development and the York Central project, but at the same time we also need to spend taxpayers’ money wisely.

“Without any business case or evidence of private sector backing Labour are planning to borrow another £9.5m to build a bridge into the vacant site.

“They are not clear how they will get the money back and the cost of this borrowing means around £300,000 will go on debt charges instead of frontline services.

“The Lib Dems would not commit this money without a proper business plan.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“Labour are taking a gamble with public money and as with all bets the risks are obvious.”

Development, and particularly the provision of new houses, has become a major political issue in York over the last year with the Labour administration arguing much greater housebuilding is needed to meet demand and keep homes affordable.

Figures included in a report to be considered by senior councillors next week shows that the number of housing developments approved by the authority has doubled in the last year which the number of homes given the green light has increased from 214 to 772.

Coun Alexander added: “Over the last year our Get York Building initiative has provided the means to provide much needed sustainable homes, help the local economy, unblock the house building market, provide a much-needed boost to employment, reducing benefits dependency whilst creating a knock-on impact in the wider prosperity of the city.”