Plans for a multi-storey car park at St George’s Field will not necessarily go ahead, Green Party councillors say – despite refusing to vote against the scheme.
They say senior councillors on the Liberal Democrat and Green Party-led authority could still change or reject the proposals.
The five storey 372-space car park was approved at a planning meeting last week, with the only Green councillor on the committee abstaining from the vote.
The plans were deferred at an earlier meeting because Green councillor Rosie Baker called for a full review of city centre parking and asked if the spaces would be needed after the pandemic. But the application was brought back to a planning meeting just 50 days later for approval.
Cllr Baker says that even though the car park has planning permission, it could still be halted by the Lib Dem and Green Party-led council.
She said: “Whilst planning permission has now been granted the car park still isn’t a done deal. Senior councillors must still give the final go ahead for this to happen.
“I will be insisting that we see an in-depth parking capacity study before the executive makes the final decision on how to proceed in the summer.
“Council officers have made very bold statements about how necessary this car park is but have not provided the evidence to back up these claims.”
Questions over demand
“We still don’t have a very clear assessment of whether this car park is necessary, if this is the best place in the city for it to be located or if it needs to be the size and number of storeys that is being proposed,” Cllr Baker added.
“We asked for this information the last time this was brought before a planning committee but the council has just resubmitted it without this additional information.
“We have all seen the change in all of our habits over the last 12 months and combined with the investment in public transport and the improvements we have delivered to infrastructure for walking and cycling we just don’t know whether the demand for car parking in the city centre will be the same as it was before the pandemic.”
Green Party councillor and member of the executive Denise Craghill was on the planning committee and abstained from voting on the plans. It meant the plans were approved by a majority of eight votes to six.
She said: “I think that we need to get beyond the idea that people only buy things from businesses, hospitality venues and visitor attractions if they arrive in a car. What is important is that they arrive and they enjoy and engage with our city centre.
“We also have a commitment to achieving ambitious climate change targets and a commitment to supporting sustainable transport options given that around a third of our local carbon emissions come from transport.”
Lib Dem senior councillor Nigel Ayre welcomed the decision to grant planning approval, saying it means the closure of Castle Car Park can move ahead.
He said: “We remain committed to providing parking to replace the closure of Castle Car Park.
“We’ve also rightly given ourselves enough time to understand the impact of Covid, further engagement with blue badge holders and to develop the Local Transport Plan before we start building on St George’s Field.
“This is fantastic news and another important milestone in a bold plan to transform such an important part of our city.
“Castle Gateway will provide exactly what York needs to continue its economic recovery. It gives the space for businesses to grow and more affordable houses, while the new public spaces, cycle paths, walkways and modern parking will bring residents and visitors into the city.”