The council spent more than £139,000 on a glossy report detailing plans for a care home, new houses and medical facilities to be built on the former Bootham Park Hospital site – despite not owning the property.
And opposition politicians have criticised the decision as a waste of money.
A Freedom of Information Request by local democracy reporter Chloe Laversuch revealed the cost of creating the Bootham Park site development report document was £139,268.84.
Funding came from the government’s One Public Estate Programme – and a spokesman for City of York Council said the money could not be spent on anything else.
But Labour group leader Danny Myers said the council has “wasted” cash on developing the project and “let the chance to buy the Bootham Park site slip through its hands”.
‘Absolutely no say’
Cllr Pete Kilbane, speaking at a meeting last week before the cost of the report was revealed, said the council “will have absolutely no say” on what a developer does with the site because it is not owned by the local authority.
He called on senior councillors to look at whether the council could buy the site and redevelop it.
The former Bootham Park Hospital site is being sold by NHS Property Services. An earlier attempt by the council to delay the sale was rejected by the government.
The council has not bid for the property, which is listed with estate agent Savills.
But it has launched a consultation to ask residents what they think a developer should do with the site.
A council report says the local authority and York Teaching Hospital hope to use the £139,000 development report to “influence the plans of future owners”.
The document outlines plans for 147 new homes, 52 apartments for essential public sector staff like doctors, nurses and teachers, a physiotherapy suite, a medical training and research centre, a 70-bed care home, 60 assisted living apartments for older people, a children’s nursery and a multi-storey car park.
Cllr Myers said:
This is publicly owned land that should really be delivering healthcare and other public health benefits for the people of York.
Instead, the current Lib Dem-Green coalition has wasted over £135,000 on this process and still there is no vision for how to keep this land for public benefit.
Labour is calling for immediate co-operation between the council and NHS Property Services to reach an agreement to stop this sell-off.
He added that otherwise there is a “sad inevitability” the site could become luxury apartments and a hotel.
The council’s response in full
“The government has refused our requests to stop the sale, so we have worked with local health partners and used our own land to guide development which would bring a variety of benefits to the city.
“Buying and converting the site will cost tens of millions of pounds, and would include the council taking on the cost of maintaining the site – this currently stands at several hundred thousand pounds a year.”
He said options for the site will be considered by senior councillors at an executive meeting in December.
And he added: “As it stands, some potential bidders have contacted the council directly and we look forward to holding future conversations with any party interested in buying the site.
“The responses to the public consultation have only reinforced the fact that we are right to do what have done to protect such an important and valued part of York’s heritage. The site development plan has helped us to ask the right questions, and we have had constructive responses from residents and businesses to the opportunities presented by a mixed use development.
“Bootham Park is a complex project with a series of Grade I and II-listed buildings and many partners.
“The council stands ready to work with others to deliver a development which works for York using the significant levers we have. Taking such a huge risk in isolation would be irresponsible and could deprive frontline services, such as adult social care, of significant funding.”