York’s deputy council leader has angered business leaders by declaring plans for a £14m car park ‘dead in the water’.
However, his partner in the ruling coalition says the project is still on the table.
Deputy leader and transport lead Cllr Andy D’Agorne’s comments about the council-led project to build a multi-storey car park (MSCP) on St George’s Field came in a Twitter exchange last night (Monday).
The Green Party leader replied to a tongue-in-cheek tweet suggesting Amsterdam should build more multi-storeys like York.
“Er that ones wearing thin now. St George’s multi storey is dead in water as no business case to build it,” the councillor and Green Party leader said.
His comment angered York business leaders. Chair of the York High Street Forum David Skaith said: “This will certainly come as news to many people.
“If you agree or disagree with the MSCP section of the plan, this is just highlighting again how we have no clear direction or decisions being made.”
Forum deputy chair and former director of the board of the York BID (Business Improvement District) Phil Pinder went further:
You have no shame! You told a very different story to the York BID board when this was presented. You never once said this!
Businesses made the case for replacing the car park, are you now saying you disagree with BID board? You should resign!
The St George’s Field multi-storey, which already has planning permission, is designed to replace Castle car park, which will close under the Castle Gateway regeneration.
Cllr D’Agorne has already called for the MSCP to be scrapped – saying there’s no longer a business case for it. But his tweet went further.
Leader of the Conservative Group, Cllr Paul Doughty has written to Liberal Democrat council leader Keith Aspden asking for clarification on the comments made by his Green Party deputy.
He said: “The Conservatives have repeatedly asked Cllr Aspden and his coalition partner to publicly promise to commit to replace all the parking spaces that will be lost with the Castle Gateway scheme.
“Cllr D’Agorne describes St. George’s Field as ‘dead in the water’ – so is this therefore also the case for the Castle Gateway scheme or does this Council intend to sell York businesses and residents down the river?”
Cllr D’Agorne told YorkMix that his view on the car park came followed a private briefing to the council’s executive last month.
Senior officers shared with them the results of the business case for the car park which, he said, suggested it would become a ‘white elephant’ which couldn’t pay for itself.
That business case has not been shared with the public. He hoped it would be included in papers to a future meeting on the executive to make a decision on what happens next.
Decision to come
As a capital investment, the scheme comes under the portfolio of Lib Dem Cllr Nigel Ayre, the finance and performance executive member.
He told YorkMix: “The transformation of the Castle Car Park into a world class cultural space has the support of York residents and the business community.
“We remain absolutely clear in our commitment to replacing parking spaces that will be lost with the closure of Castle Car Park, to ensure local businesses are supported in their recovery.
“Retailers and businesses are rightly concerned about an approach which would see a major loss of car parking without providing an alternative parking solution, and we have seen no evidence that it is in the best interest of the city.
“As such, our policy remains as set out in the Castle Gateway Masterplan approved in 2018 and supported by all parties – to minimise the loss of car parking spaces and deliver a world class community space.”
“The decision on the future of St George’s Field will be considered alongside a wider update on the Castle Gateway regeneration project in the summer.
“To understand the best parking solution all options are currently being investigated and any decisions made will be based on a clear and comprehensive business case, listening to the views of residents and businesses.
“The decision on the future of the site will also be discussed at a meeting of the council’s scrutiny committee prior to any formal decision being taken by the executive.
“It is essential for York’s recovery that we continue to work on delivering key regeneration projects such as Castle Gateway and York Central. These projects are central to our ambitions for inclusive growth, new public spaces and better housing, which are now more important than ever.”