Developer set to put £25m hotel plans on ice

Northminster Ltd managing director, George Burgess, the company behind £25m York hotel plans

A new business park scheme has put a spanner in the works of a £25m hotel plan in York.

Developer Northminster submitted plans for a 146-bed hotel and eight apartments, called Piccadilly Riverside to the City of York Council in February after two years of consultations.

The 50,000 sq ft proposal includes 42,000 sq ft for the hotel and around 7,900 sq ft of apartments.

Now, Northminster’s plans are on ice as doubts arise that its Spark: York scheme meets national planning policy guidelines for conservation areas.

The Spark:York scheme would see the former Reynards garage into an enterprise centre made from 15 shipping containers, arranged over two levels.

The trio of entrepreneurs behind the scheme said it would deliver shops, cafes and community projects to the area, but Northminster managing director George Burgess said it was “wholly inappropriate” for the area.

He said: “The Spark:York plan proposed for 17-21 Piccadilly is on land owned by City of York Council and must be subjected to the same rigorous scrutiny under local and national planning policy as any development submitted for this historic part of the city.

“There are far better uses for this site in terms of architecture, job creation and income generation for the local authority and, in spite of the considerable investment we have made so far, we may place our hotel scheme on hold until the threat to this part of the city is removed with the rejection or relocation of the Spark:York scheme.”

National UK planning policy for conservation areas stipulates that “long-term viable uses” should be found “to protect and enhance heritage assets” and Northminster says that the Spark:York scheme does not meet either criteria.

George Burgess adds: “The Spark:York scheme would be only temporary with the proposed granting of a three-year lease. Old shipping containers are not ‘permanent structures’ with any reasonable life expectancy so they hardly ‘protect and enhance heritage assets’.

“We support helping start-up businesses but cafes and licensed premises are well catered for in this part of the city. There appears to be no firm plans to relocate the businesses which will have been established in the Spark:York development after three years.

“Without a replacement location, York will be under pressure to extend the temporary use of the Piccadilly site that could become permanent by default in spite of its unsuitability. There are more suitable sites within the City that could accommodate Spark:York, in a less sensitive location.”

George Burgess said that, if City of York Council wanted temporary revenue from the Piccadilly site, a car park would provide a higher and more secure income with far less conflict with existing residents and businesses.

He adds: “Spark:York is not the only option for this site. There is strong commercial interest for uses far better suited to national planning policy for conservation areas.

“York has lost more than 400,000 sq ft of office space during the last five years as a result of planning legislation changes to permitted development of offices to residential use.

“A permanent development, including high-quality Grade A offices, where York now faces a severe shortage, could create more than 300 permanent jobs, generate business rates for the city along with in excess of £1m cash or a substantial annual income of more than £100,000 for the local authority, all of which would offer better value for the city.”