No visitor centre, but a new staircase – revised plans for Clifford’s Tower revealed

One of the stairway options for Clifford's Tower. Architectural images: Hugh Broughton Architects
2 Oct 2019 @ 12.00 pm
| Environment, History

The controversial visitor centre has gone – but Clifford’s Tower will undergo other significant changes under revised plans revealed today.

Last summer English Heritage scrapped plans for a modern visitor centre built into the mound of the castle after an outcry and legal challenge.

The new plans are now out for consultation. Interior changes to the medieval castle are largely the same as those in the ill-fated 2016 planning application – featuring new walkways and a roofdeck.

New elements of the designs include four potential options to enhance the staircase from street level to the entrance of Clifford’s Tower, on which the charity is particularly keen to seek views.

The four options are:

  • Installation of new handrails beside the existing steps
  • Two new handrails beside the existing steps and three resting points for visitors during the climb
  • A new metal staircase with two landings to decrease the gradient of the climb
  • A new metal staircase with a single landing with side areas for visitors to rest.

Also English Heritage is proposing a new electric three wheeled vehicle positioned close to the base of the tower to allow staff to assist visitors at ground level.

The three wheeled vehicle would be a stored off site overnight.

The four stairway options

Option 1

Option 2

Option 3

Option 4

There will be two open days at Clifford’s Tower with free entry for York residents who can provide proof of address on October 20 and 27, in which the designs will be on display.

Fresh consultation

The interior walkways have been retained as part of the plans
English Heritage is now seeking the views of the public on the designs, and hopes to submit applications for planning permission and Scheduled Monument Consent in 2020.

Though the plans for Clifford’s Tower are being delivered separately to City of York Council’s Castle Gateway Project and York Museums Trust’s plans for the transformation of York Castle Museum, the “three organisations will work together so that the story of York Castle is told across the sites in a coherent way”, the charity says.

The three-wheeler that would be positioned near the foot of the steps
The roof deck is retained in the new plans
Architect Hugh Broughton and Andrea Selley at the top of the tower
English Heritage’s territory director in the North of England Andrea Selley. Photographs: Richard McDougall

English Heritage’s territory director in the North of England Andrea Selley was at the consultation launch at the tower today (Wednesday 2 October). She said:

  • Clifford’s Tower is one of York’s most important historic sites, and English Heritage is committed to investing in it in a way that protects its historic fabric and improves the experience of those visiting.

    Over the year since we announced that we would not proceed with constructing a new visitor building at the base of the mound at Clifford’s Tower, we have been reflecting on our plans, discussing various options, and consulting with stakeholders in the Castle Gateway area, and in wider York.

    Now, we are keen to know what the public think of our designs, which is why we are today launching a consultation, inviting everyone with an interest in the future of Clifford’s Tower to respond.

Take a look at the plans on the Clifford’s Tower page on the English Heritage website.

And give your response on this special email address: [email protected].

Conservation needs

Now scrapped – the controversial visitor centre plan
The decision by English Heritage to scrap plans for its visitor centre – which were approved by City of York Council – was a remarkable victory for campaigners who had fought against it for two years.

Led by independent councillor Johnny Hayes, who invested a lot of his own money into the battle, they took City of York Council to the High Court for a Judicial Review.

And although the verdict went against them in June last year, permission had been given for an appeal.

The decision by the charity to abandon the visitor centre plan was welcomed. The other proposed alterations, including the walkway and roof deck, had already won widespread approval.

Over the past few weeks, a new research project has started at Clifford’s Tower. This sees historic buildings experts examining the conservation needs of the tower’s fabric.

The research, which will continue until December, will help inform conservation works planned to take place alongside investment in visitor infrastructure over the next few years.