Major York retail schemes approach climax

©Wikimedia commons; Image credit: Kaly99

Plans for major retail development in the York city centre and at Monks Cross approach a climax as the City Council's cabinet meet to decide whether to support a £200 million scheme adjacent to Piccadilly - as the Monks Cross expansion proposal is greatly scaled back.

LaSalle UK Ventures Property, which owns York's Coppergate shopping centre, seek final approval to move forward with developing a large retail centre on the adjacent Castle-Picadilly site, saying that it is currently in talks with major retailers.

The site, named the "best location for ... meeting York's longer-term retail needs" by the City Council, has been a key point of controversy for over a decade, with many criticising the approach until the "Coppergate II" plans were thrown out at a public enquiry nine years ago.

Any agreement would intend to ensure that the end result is "high quality", with the Council's Cabinet Member for City Strategy, Dave Merrett, saying that the site is of "key importance" to the city.

Owners LaSalle say that the development could be completed in as little as four years, despite comments to the contrary from the City Council. A spokesperson stated: "The Castle Piccadilly development should be completed and open in fewer than five years ... and [possibly] even earlier, in 2016."

The agreement aims to spark a regeneration of the area, including specific plans for civic open space, links across the river Foss and both new and improved public pathways.

The climax of this meeting falls less than a week after Monks Cross Shopping Park withdraw part of their application for expansion, which LaSalle claimed in February would force it to sell the Castle Piccadilly site.

Monks Cross' plans for surrounding areas (in association with Oakgate and USS), including the "Monks Cross Phase II" site that houses Argos and TK Maxx, have been massively scaled back, but current plans to bolster existing outlets and redevelop the main area - as well as separate plans to build new John Lewis and Marks & Spencer stores, which would help to facilitate a new community stadium - are still proposed.

Katherine Sharp, Centre Manager, stated: "Planning applications will create about 225 new jobs and secure the future of retailers at Monks Cross, which we believe is of real benefit to York in the current economic climate."

Though the new employment figure is significantly reduced from the initial 339, Sharp explained that "the withdrawn applications do not impact upon our overall ambitions for the main park" and confirmed that "we are keen to continue working with the council to ensure the remaining planning applications are right for Monks Cross and of wider benefit to the area."

Though many claim that the two projects will help to ensure that retail development in the city is balanced, others are less certain. Phillip Crowe, Chair of York Tomorrow, said in a letter to the York Press that "what Oakgate and the city council fail to acknowledge is the threat to the redevelopment and regeneration of Castle-Piccadilly if the present owners pull out.

"The council appears to have no Plan B to cope with this eventuality. Do not be deceived by the apparent healthy state of York’s retail heart. It would not take much to bring on a cardiac arrest."

The city's Cabinet will meet on the evening of Tuesday, April 3 to discuss the Castle Piccadilly plans in full, as Monks Cross' plans approach their own decision date.

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