Labour is challenging the Lib Dem-Green council’s approach to the York Central development, and asking the Council to do a full and independent economic appraisal as the major brownfield site’s outline application awaits approval by the Government.
Both Councillor Danny Myers, leader of the Labour Group in City of York Council, and Rachael Maskell, Labour MP for York Central, have spoken out against the scheme in its current form. Ms Maskell has spoken to Northern Powerhouse and Local Growth Minister Jake Berry requesting that the outline application, approved by the council planning committee in March, be ‘called in’ and examined at a major public inquiry.
Labour’s main objection is that the current scheme will stack unaffordable, luxury flats onto the site and contribute nothing for the residents of York. Cllr. Myers said:
“This is a prime development site next to the railway station on a piece of public land that has historically employed thousands of people with skilled career work. We believe that York’s economy needs to be regenerated in good part through high-value, higher wage, skilled work.
“The current plan fails to deliver the economic vision for the land as laid out in the Local Plan where it is identified as York’s biggest economic site. It does not ‘maximise the benefits of job creation and economic growth’ as required by the plan, not least as it massively fails to deliver the target 120,000 sqm of commercial space identified as the number one priority in the city’s Economic Strategy.
“The Council rushed headlong into signing off the finances to unlock the site – £57million of borrowing, including interest – without even having any detailed economic plans. Labour voted against this in December and we remain concerned that the rush for the site to be dominated by overpriced housing is the wrong approach on what should be considered a prime development site for the future of jobs and wages in our city.
“There is a better deal for residents and businesses in York. By maximising space for jobs and by beginning to develop a proper plan for what types of jobs we want and can attract, York Central can be transformative to our city’s economy and benefit the people living in York who rightly expect to derive some benefit from it.
“Even if York Central gains outline approval from the Government, homes and jobs space can still be adjusted within the parameters set”.
David Fraser, chief executive of York Civic Trust, attended Ms Maskell’s meeting with Mr Berry and agrees that the scheme should be called in. In a letter to Ms Maskell he stated that the scheme could hae a potentially disastrous impact on the city, and that the council’s ability to determine the application impartially was compromised because it was a major landowner and a member of the York Central Partnership driving the project.