City of York Council plans for regeneration of the Castle / Piccadilly area – a project now renamed “Castle Gateway”, certainly an improvement on the previous unmemorable “Southern Gateway” title – seem to be slowly getting underway. Two planning applications have so far been submitted for the area. One of these – the Spark York plan for temporary fast food and small business units based in converted shipping containers on the old Reynards site – has now been approved amidst much controversy. The River Foss Society has no collective view on this plan, since it won’t affect the river in any way. We object strongly, however, to another planning application, for a hotel on the NCP car park site, because it makes no provision for public access to the riverside at a spot directly opposite Clifford’s Tower. This application has not yet been considered by the Council, but it is reassuring that not only the River Foss Society, but also York Civic Trust and even the Council’s own Castle Gateway project team, have objected to this aspect of the hotel plans.
Much better news for the Society, however, is that the draft Castle Gateway master plan at long last includes our long-cherished aim of a continuous riverside pedestrian walkway from Blue Bridge to Piccadilly, passing underneath Castle Mills Bridge. Achievement of this aim would mean that walkers starting the Foss Walk from Blue Bridge, with its finger post indicating 28 miles to Easingwold, are no longer met, after a scant few hundred yards at the end of Brownie Dyke, by a long and hard-to-follow diversion away from the Foss.
The Society will be doing our utmost to ensure that the riverside footway plan is actually carried out. We will also be pressing for a pedestrian link on the other bank, between the riverside behind the Castle Museum and the Eye of York, and for the landscaping of the whole riverbank area near Clifford’s Tower to be as wildlife-friendly as possible. We also hope to put forward proposals for improving the somewhat run-down Foss Basin, though we don’t yet have any specific ideas on this. Suggestions welcome!
City of York Council has commissioned outside planning consultants to carry out a public consultation exercise, “My Castle Gateway”, on all aspects of the regeneration project. The River Foss Society will be contributing actively to this consultation, and we hope that many individual members of the Society will do likewise: look out for publicity in the media over the coming months. And please share your ideas with us, so that the Society’s response to the consultation reflects members’ views to the greatest possible extent.