Tories defend York Central housing plan

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YORK CONSERVATIVES have defended plans for the one of the country’s largest brownfield sites claiming an MP’s rival proposals would be disastrous for the city’s housing market.

The party, which is part of a coalition administration running York Council, argued there was a clear need for flats and townhouses rather than family homes on the land close to the city’s railway station.

The proposals for York Central recently came under fire from York MP Rachael Maskell who argued they would do little to help York families on the council’s waiting list. Arguing that developments of flats were bought up by commuters and for weekend use, Ms Maskell called for the council to adopt a “York First” approach to housing which would focus on the building of family homes for local people.

York Council has struggled to agree its planning blueprint, called the Local Plan, setting out where development should take place because of political rows over housing numbers.

Almost three years ago, the then Labour-run council unveiled proposals for 22,000 homes by 2030. The number was subsequently reduced to 17,000 but Labour lost the 2015 city elections and the plan is now being overseen by a Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition running York.

Coun Sam Lisle, a Conservative member of the council’s Local Plan working group, said: “Obviously York needs and wants affordable family housing for as many residents as possible, but single family housing certainly isn’t going to be built in the city centre to any significant degree.

“Costs in the centre are high and there is little room for the gardens most families want. There are however many buyers who would like to live in the centre of York in flats and townhouses and this is the segment of the housing market who are most likely to find their needs catered for in the city centre.”

Coun Lisle added: “Further, her idea of a ‘York First’ regulation shows yet again that Labour never learn from their past mistakes. It was the previous Labour administration’s requirement that private house builders provide uneconomic levels of ‘affordable homes’, even during the financial downturn, that weakened the housing market in York to such an extent that it has yet to fully recover.”

York Central has long been considered one of the most promising development sites in the region. But the 72-acre site has been hampered by difficult access and the last proposals fell victim to the credit crunch.

A sustained effort is now underway to try and kickstart development of the land which could include up to 2,500 homes alongside swathes of office space. The new vision for the site could also incorporate improvements to the station and the National Railway Museum along with new public spaces.

Speaking in the Commons last week, Ms Maskell said the York Central proposals “will not at all address the social needs of my city”. She called for priority to be given to homes for the elderly and homeless as well as houses for social rent.

“We cannot ignore the real needs of people who simply want a roof over the heads, and are being denied that at the moment,” she said.