The fight is back on! Clifford’s Tower visitor centre could still be scrapped

Clifford's Tower, as seen from close to the river. Photograph: YorkMix
11 Oct 2017 @ 4.34 pm
| Environment

The plan to build a modern visitor centre at the foot of Clifford’s Tower could yet be scuppered.

English Heritage had been given the go ahead to build the modern centre by a High Court judge in June.

But now that decision is going to appeal.

The man who has led opposition to the plan, Cllr Johnny Hayes, declared himself delighted to hear the news today (Wednesday).

Thousands against

This artist’s impression gives a view of the visitor centre from the Eye Of York

So, the story so far…

Nearly a year ago custodians of Clifford’s Tower, English Heritage, were given planning permission by City of York Council to construct a one-storey visitor centre.

It would be built into the motte on which the old castle stands.

Independent councillor Johnny Hayes then applied for a judicial review of that decision.

With nearly 4,000 signatures petitioning against the development, and thousands of pounds raised via crowdfunding, the judicial review went ahead in May.

But the judge ruled in favour of English Heritage, paving the way for the build.

Cllr Hayes applied to take that ruling to appeal. And now High Court judge Lord Justice Hickinbottom has granted that application.

A test case

Johnny Hayes leads a protest in November

In his reasons for giving permission, the judge wrote “I am persuaded that the grounds are arguable.”

He also said that “this appears to be the first case in which the meaning and effect of paragraph 141 of the National Planning Policy Framework have been considered”.

In other words, this will be a test case for recently established planning law with regards to the impact of a development on the surrounding archaeology.

And it will challenge the idea that you can justify a development destroying archaeology simply by promising to keep records of what will be lost.

Hopeful of success

‘Not In The Motte’ was the rallying cry – here with former minister Frank Dobson

“We are very hopeful of success in the Appeal Court,” Johnny said today.

“It has been a long wait but now we will have our opportunity to appeal against the detail of the verdict of the Clifford’s Tower judicial review.”

Johnny, who has sunk a lot of his own money into the legal fund fighting the visitor centre, added:

The whole case will focus on one aspect of planning law about development and its impact on archaeology.

The Court of Appeal will be looking at the detail of the planning laws governing how heritage assets should be treated and whether the verdict of the judge in May was flawed.

We are hopeful that we will win this appeal and that the planning permission given for the Clifford’s Tower Visitors Centre on 27th October 2016 will be quashed by City of York Council.