Nearly £3.5m has already been spent on the delayed Castle Gateway project, City of York Council figures reveal.
Conservative group leader Cllr Paul Doughty, who requested the numbers, expressed shock at the “whopping” figure spent “before a spade is even lifted”.
The data shows that £3.48m has been spent on the Castle Gateway regeneration project, which includes the Castle Mills site, St George’s Field and the Eye of York.
This includes costs such as design and consultation work, planning applications and land purchase.
The council wants to transform the area beneath Clifford’s Tower into a “world class public space”.
But the plans have stalled – due to a combination of Covid, Brexit and inflation, the council said – and a key decision on whether to build a multi-storey car park on the site has been pushed back until after the local elections in 2023.
Cllr Doughty fears the money spent so far could be “completely wasted” due to the “inability” to reach an agreement on car parking.
Plans for a new multi-storey car park on St George’s Field to replace Castle Car Park have proven controversial. The council’s deputy leader, Cllr Andy D’Agorne, says the idea is “dead in the water”, but the Liberal Democrats insist it is still on the table.
Cllr Doughty said: “Only the Conservatives will commit to saying the Castle Car Park must not be closed until there is a full replacement of car parking spaces in the city, including access spaces for blue badge holders.
“Our city’s businesses, who’ve had a hard time the past couple of years, are reliant on this and so too are residents who live in the outer wards and villages who don’t necessarily have the best of public transport.
“The Lib Dems need to be honest and upfront. Are they abandoning the schemes or are they prepared to lose the parking and betray residents and city centre businesses?”
Committed by Tories
Cllr Nigel Ayre, executive member for finance and major projects, pointed out that £2.5m was committed to the scheme by the then Conservative council leader, Ian Gillies, when the Castle Gateway masterplan was approved in 2018.
He added: “Despite the pandemic, skyrocketing inflation and financial uncertainty of the last few years, the Castle Gateway scheme has progressed. Design, consultation and planning application stages have seen typical costs for this level of work on such a major scheme.
“With clear external pressures beyond our control impacting the speed of delivery of major schemes, we must be thorough and base decisions on evidence not politics.”
Cllr Ayre said the council remained “absolutely clear” in its commitment to replace parking spaces that will be lost with the closure of Castle Car Park.
“Retailers and businesses are rightly concerned about an approach which would see a major loss of car parking without providing an alternative parking solution, and we have seen no evidence that it is in the best interest of the city,” he added.