THE landmark York Central development is not just pivotal to the future of the historic city. It is also fundamental to the fortunes of this county’s wider economy.
The largest brownfield site in the north of England, it is now earmarked for up to 2,500 homes and more than 110,000 square metres of blue chip office, leisure and retail developments.
Not only does this scheme have the potential to bring great prestige to York because of its proximity to the city centre, but it offers the chance to broaden the economy. The question now is whether it should be called in for a public inquiry by James Brokenshire, the Housing and Communities Secretary, after planning permission was granted by City of York Council for access to open up this prime site for wider development.
The central criticism of opponents, like Rachael Maskell, the York MP and Shadow Rail Minister, is that it includes insufficient social housing for low-waged local people.
When plans for the 72-acre site were approved, Ms Maskell told MPs that the site in question would be home to “2,000 luxury apartments” that York does not need”. She added: “I would juxtapose that with the 11 homeless people who lost their lives in our city last year, and with the people I see who are living in box bedrooms.”
However it should still be possible for York’s council, and its partner agencies, to resolve these concerns with property developers through negotiation rather than forcing a lengthy – and costly – public inquiry.
For, if the latter happens, York could miss out on Government money that is available for such regeneration schemes and which is critical to the financing of this long-awaited redevelopment. As such, Mr Brokenshire would be advised to take heed of those political, business and civic leaders from across Yorkshire who want to maximise the benefits that can be accrued from this initial £150m investment.