York Central masterplan wins top award – but campaigners brand the prize ‘a joke’

An overview of the York Central development from the developer's video

York Central could be better than the King’s Cross redevelopment – according to the judges of a prestigious architecture award.

But campaigners have called the award ‘a joke’ and say it ‘just proves how out of touch the architects are with the city of York’.

The project won the best masterplan category at the Architects’ Journal Architecture Awards 2019.

Judges said the project has the bone structure to become better than King’s Cross – and the masterplan for both projects was designed by the same architecture team.

The York Central scheme was designed by Allies and Morrison – who described the project as the “most significant urban expansion in the ancient city of York’s modern history and currently one of the largest development projects in the UK”.

‘A game changer for York’

An artist’s impression of part of the York Central site
The award judges told Architects’ Journal:

  • The proposal builds on Allies and Morrison’s King’s Cross Central masterplan, which had to deal with similar challenges, and then improves it.

    The proposed linear park will be a game changer for York. It responds to all the demands and needs of all the stakeholders and gives back to the wider area.

    It will be transformational for the city.

York Central Partnership and City of York Council welcomed the news, with assistant director of regeneration Tracey Carter saying: “This is fantastic news for Allies and Morrison and all the partners involved in developing the masterplan for York Central. It is most pleasing to see the judges recognise our efforts to place the needs and aspirations of the city’s stakeholders at its heart.”

York Central was up against a shortlist of projects from across the county.

The firm enlisted by the council to design 600 new homes for the city in the next five years – Mikhail Riches – won the architect of the year prize.

‘Slice through communities’

The map of the famous teardrop-shaped site
But campaign group York Central Action criticised the award.

One member of the group, James Pitt, is now a Holgate resident – but previously he was a community worker helping tenants who he says were forced out of the King’s Cross area in London.

He says the comparison with King’s Cross confirms what they have been saying all along: “Plonking a slice of King’s Cross down in the heart of our historic city will slice through communities, price locals out of the city and burden York with unimaginable traffic woes.”

The group argue that Allies and Morrison failed to engage with the local community. Holgate resident Katherine Blaker said:

  • Local residents would strongly disagree that this master plan responds to our demands and needs.

    The partnership and planners have shown absolute intransigence to locals’ priorities and concerns.

    The award is a joke but risks giving credibility to this project that has trampled on residents’ wishes for a carbon-neutral car-free development with maximum social housing.

York Central Action says there is still time for a rethink and to draw up plans that better meet the needs of local communities, and that this will be the best way to ensure that York Central becomes something that the people of York can be proud of for many years to come.

Additional reporting: YorkMix