Judge to rule on council’s handling of English Heritage visitors’ centre scheme

Hugh Broughton Architects-designed plans to build a visitor centre at the base of York’s historic Clifford’s Tower will be the focus of a Judicial Review hearing next week.

Last year City of York Council approved the proposals – drawn up for English Heritage – to dig into the 13th Century structure’s motte to create a “quiet but appropriate” stone-fronted visitor centre, as well as a timber viewing structure inside the tower.

English Heritage said the interventions would rest on a raft foundation that spread their load, and would not impact on archaeology within the tower, but protesters described the designs as “ugly beyond belief” and harmful to views of the tower and mound.

Independent York councillor Johnny Hayes has led a campaign to challenge the city council’s decision, which will now be heard before a High Court judge sitting at Leeds on May 3.


Cliffords Tower

Source: Riaz Kanani / Flickr

Clifford’s Tower in York


He said the case aimed to demonstrate that York’s decision to approve the proposals was wrong in law and get it quashed.

“Essentially, this is about the relationship between public benefit and harm to a Scheduled Ancient Monument,” he said.

“English Heritage has argued that public benefit would outweigh the harm, but it’s our view that it has not been appraised correctly, and that the decision is flawed.”

He said that particular areas of concern were the impact of the proposals on the site’s archaeology, and the presentation of relevant data in the council officers’ report on the scheme, which was put together in autumn last year.

Hayes and his supporters are keen to see a visitor centre for Clifford’s Tower created as part of the redevelopment of a nearby car park.

He told BD that he was not personally opposed to the viewing platform element of the Hugh Broughton proposals, but said it was part and parcel of a single planning application and therefore could not be separated.

His campaign has so far raised around £14,000 through crowd funding with additional costs being underwritten by Hayes and wife Franke.

The campaign has the support of Save Britain’s Heritage and York Central MP Rachael Maskell, who tabled an early day motion in the House of Commons in February questioning the siting of the visitors’ centre.