Two new buildings which will help safeguard the future of York Minster by boosting technology and providing accommodation for craftspeople have been approved by councillors.
The £5m centre of excellence for heritage craft skills and estate management will be made up of new developments at the Minster stoneyard and the deanery.
The aim is to make York Minster precinct “a world class campus facility for research, education, and training and ancient craft skills, as well as cutting edge technology”, according to director of works precinct Alex McCallion.
The new technology hub will be housed on the site of the current stoneyard. Incorporating the latest in stone cutting machinery and new workshops for electricians, plumbers, joiners and heritage builders, the hub will include a viewing platform to allow visitors to watch them at work.
Around 70 per cent of its power will come from solar tiles in the roof, while all water used in the processing of stone will be recycled.
Cllr Janet Looker said she thought it was going to be an “absolutely fascinating” added dimension to York’s urban landscape.
“We very rarely see anything very different or novel in our designs and I think this is an extraordinary opportunity,” she added.
Cllr Denise Craghill said: “I really think modern design is something to be recommended, not just looked at as a harm, as representing York as a city that’s based on history but looks to the future – and represents sustainability and carbon reduction at the same time.”
A new heritage quad will also be created at the deanery, providing six bedrooms for apprentices and fifteen work stations.
Mr McCallion said one current first year apprentice was renting accommodation from the YMCA as he could not find affordable accommodation in the city.
The Chapter of York, the governing body of the Minster, is concerned about loss of skills among craftspeople, as well as a national skills shortage in the heritage sector.
Mr McCallion, who told councillors the plans had drawn interest from cathedrals worldwide, added: “It will create employment, broaden our visitor experience, offer extensive training opportunities and promote York around the world.
“It will inspire the next generation of crafts people and most importantly secure the long term viable restoration and conservation of York Minster.”
Cllr Rachel Melly said: “I’m always nervous about developments so close to the city walls and the Minster and so many other heritage buildings but I think this is done well and it clearly would have really significant benefits in terms of education and heritage.”