‘Missed opportunity’ as £200m York regeneration plan scaled back

POLITICAL opponents have branded a dramatically scaled-back regeneration project in York city centre as a huge missed opportunity after developers admitted the expansion of a rival out-of-town retail park has undermined an initial £200m scheme.

Blueprints for the re-development of the city’s Castle Piccadilly district have been submitted to York Council, although the proposals have had to be radically altered and downsized from the original plans.

The investors behind the regeneration proposals, LaSalle UK Ventures Fund, admitted that competition from a re-development of the Monks Cross retail district on the outskirts of the city has meant the scaled-back plans have had to be submitted.

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The deputy leader of the council’s Conservative group, Coun George Barton, has accused the Labour administration of focusing its attention too heavily on the expansion of Monks Cross.

He said: “This is a vastly different scheme that is being proposed for Castle Piccadilly, and it is a huge missed opportunity. The area of the city needs to have a clear vision and I do think the administration is not making sufficient effort with LaSelle UK to provide a wider development brief.

“It is heartbreaking to think what could have been, and this would have been a golden opportunity to get more visitors into this particular part of the city centre.”

The bid to breathe new life into the Castle Piccadilly district would transform one of the most unattractive parts of the city, the future of which has been at the centre of discussions dating back two decades.

Regeneration specialist Centros, which is overseeing the Castle Piccadilly development, revealed last year it had grave fears that the scheme was no longer viable due to the competition from the expansion of the Monks Cross retail park.

The development on the edge of the city will attract retailers including John Lewis and Marks and Spencer and create a sports stadium for both York City Football Club and the York City Knights rugby league team.

But it is bitterly opposed by city centre traders who claim they will lose vital trade to the out-of-town retail development.

The Yorkshire Post revealed last month that opposition councillors had called for a review to be launched amid growing fears that the Castle Piccadilly scheme was teetering on the brink of collapse.

However, council leader James Alexander was adamant the planning application for the scaled back plans to build two new shops and 37 apartments is a significant step to helping regenerate the district.

He said: “We have seen consistent interest from businesses in this site and its good to see new investments coming forward now, following significant council investment in city centre through Reinvigorate York.

“I look forward to seeing the finer details and will be keeping a very interested eye on their progress given the potential of associated jobs and growth for York.”

A spokesman for Centros confirmed that the smaller scale regeneration will focus on the Banana Warehouse building and neighbouring stores, although the Ryedale House office block, which many view as one of the biggest eyesores in York, is not part of the re-development.

The Yorkshire Post understands that Ryedale House could now be converted into flats after the developers had initially considered demolishing the building as part of the original plans.

A planning statement with the application, which is due to be decided by the council in the autumn, has stated that finding an “acceptable large-scale retail-led regeneration scheme within York city centre has always been challenging”.

The statement also said the expansion of Monks Cross had scuppered a “comprehensive retail-led” development in Castle Piccadilly.