A planned retirement apartment block next to the Chocolate Works site is an “awful building in the wrong location”, a planning inquiry has been told.
York residents and a councillor laid out their concerns about retirement home developer McCarthy Stone’s plans to build 70 apartments and a decked car park on the current car park area in Bishopthorpe Road.
The plans, in conjunction with Henry Boot Developments, were submitted at the end of 2020, but the developers have chosen to take their case to a public inquiry because they say the council is unable to give them a timeframe for a decision.
The land is currently in the green belt but allocated for housing in the draft York Local Plan.
Philip Robson, representing City of York Council, said the plans did not represent “high quality or good design” and that the “institutional” style would be at odds with the surrounding development, adding that its four-storey height would impact on views of the factory and clock tower.
Plans for the southern and eastern boundaries of the site were “woeful”, he added.
The developers have said there is a need for elderley care accommodation in the city and that their plan would free up housing stock elsewhere in York.
Micklegate ward councillor Cllr Pete Kilbane said he believed bringing the case before an inquiry was a “tactical move” by the developer for an application that “in the normal way of the world, wouldn’t make it to a planning committee.”
He said existing policies should mean the appeal would be rejected, adding: “I think far too often the people of this fine city have had to put up with second rate architecture as the planning authority struggles to resist the downgrading of the built environment.”
He questioned whether the development would release housing for locals and said 70 more people needing GP access in the area would “destroy a system that is already broken locally.”
The Labour group leader added: “What we really need on this site is a well designed, single-storey new build healthcare centre, particularly given the age demographic of local residents.”
Loss of unique views
Exactly how a contribution from the developer towards local healthcare would be spent will be discussed at the inquiry.
Joe Leigh, who lives nearby in Bishopthorpe Road, said the proposal was an “awful building in the wrong location.”
Mary Urmston, of Fulford, said the area was a “much-loved heritage site”.
“The permanent loss of these unique views for this and future generations should in my view be out of the question,” she added.
David Manley QC, representing the developers, said it would be “irrational” for the inspector, Ken Taylor, to treat the site as being in the green belt when the council’s as yet unadopted Local Plan earmarks the site for development.
York is “highly constrained by the green belt”, Mr Manley said and “struggles to identify sufficient land supply to meet its legitimate development needs.”
He added: “We totally reject the authority’s case, which is based heavily on the emerging Local Plan expectation for the site, to which policy little weight at this stage can be attached.”
The inquiry is set to last until Thursday, with the inspector’s decision announced after that.