One of York’s flagship schemes has hit major challenges, with a contractor fired, delays expected and costs hit by spiralling inflation.
The Castle Gateway scheme has made “significant progress”, City of York Council leaders say. A planning application has been submitted to transform the current Castle Car Park and Eye of York into “a world-class public space”.
However, the connected Castle Mills project, including a riverside park, pedestrian and cycle bridge, has faltered. And crucially that includes apartments which are essential to fund the wider scheme.
The council has terminated the contract with its contractor, Wates Construction Ltd, after “delays during the detailed design and costing process”.
These were due to “Covid-19, Brexit and the current inflationary pressures, which have made sub-contractor pricing of construction packages challenging”.
The council must now find a new contractor, meaning Castle Mills construction couldn’t begin before summer 2023.
Car park on hold
As a result, the controversial £14m plan to build a multi-storey car park at St George’s Field, to replace Castle Car Park, is on hold.
That car park has received planning permission. But the council’s executive member for transport Andy D’Agorne declared it ‘dead in the water‘ in April. And more than 1,300 people signed a petition calling for the car park scheme to be deferred.
A report says the Castle Mills delay will allow the council “to collect more car parking data, engage further with city centre stakeholders, and assess all options to identify the most suitable replacement parking solution for the closure of Castle Car Park”.
At a meeting next Thursday, councillors will be asked to approve a bid to Government’s Levelling Up fund for £10m towards the Castle Gateway scheme. A previous York council submission to the fund was unsuccessful.
“With a planning application due to be determined and funding bids submitted to government, we are making significant progress in transforming the Castle Gateway into a world-class public space,” said the council’s finance and performance lead Cllr Nigel Ayre.
“We remain committed to replacing lost car parking from the closure of Castle Car Park and are resolute in our desire to make the best decisions for the city, its economic recovery and our communities.”
But Labour Group leader Cllr Claire Douglas declared the Castle Gateway project to be “in all kinds of trouble” with “huge amounts of public money wasted”.
She said: “Ruling parties in York have completely lost control of what should be a visionary project well on its way to delivery.
“Instead, they are relying on as yet unawarded Levelling Up funding from a Tory Government which has just been found by a key Parliamentary committee to be funnelling funding to key political target areas, of which York is not one.
“This project is drifting into a spiral of endless delays and cost increases. Will it will ever become a reality?”