Part of The Minster School in York to be turned into a refectory cafe as cathedral bosses set out long-term vision for area

Part of the former private school building which educated choristers for York Minster is to be turned into a refectory cafe as part of a wider vision for the area around the historic cathedral.

A consultation has been launched for residents to have their say on the plans for Minster School, which closed in summer 2020 following financial difficulties that were worsened by the pandemic.

Since its closure the building has been empty and is in need of urgent repairs, consultation documents say.

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In a normal year more than 700,000 people visit York Minster from all over the world.

The Minster School, York. Picture Jonathan Gawthorpe

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The project to renovate the refectory and create a new park is the first to emerge from the York Minster Neighbourhood Plan, a planning document created in partnership with the community to consider how the Minster area will need to evolve to meet the changing needs of residents and visitors up to 2035.

The Grade II-listed former school building at 2 Deangate would be renovated, with the stonework cleaned and repaired to reveal previously hidden architectural features. Disabled access routes would be created throughout the building and solar panels installed, for the first time on any building in the precinct.

The building would become a refectory, or cafe, across the ground and first floors, with an outdoor seating area in front.

When the plans are finalised, the Minster will look for a commercial partner to run the refectory.

Plans for the area in front of the former school would see the green space that is currently behind railings opened up to create a park where residents and visitors can relax. Gardeners will put in more plants to boost biodiversity in the area and a pergola could be installed.

The Dean of York, the Right Revd Dr Jonathan Frost, said: “The realisation of this first set of project proposals is the result of three years of collaborative community effort and a strong, shared sense of realism about the solutions that will be needed to make the York Minster Precinct viable and sustainable to 2035 and well beyond that date.

“The proposals for this refectory and the public space adjacent to it, respect the Minster and its history and its purpose as a place of worship and welcome.

“The plans are highly creative and innovative and aim to breathe new life into the building and open spaces in a way that is inclusive, sustainable, economically viable and which meets the needs of York residents and our visitors.”

In future, the York Minster Neighbourhood Plan could see the South Transept become the main visitor entrance to the Minster with the ticket office moved to Deangate.

Residents and visitors are invited to have their say on the plans at yorkminster.org/about-us/master-planning with the consultation closing on June 13 at midnight.

The Minster team will then consider the responses and refine the designs before submitting a planning application to City of York Council later in the summer. It is hoped the new park and refectory could be open by the middle of 2022, according to the consultation documents.